There are countless articles on the benefits of strength training for women and women weightlifting to get toned or ripped. They discuss how strength training improves bone density and how you will decrease your body fat while increasing your muscle mass, making you burn more energy all the time, even when you are sleeping. You are not only building stronger muscles by lifting, but also stronger connective tissue, both of which increase your joint stability and prevent injury. There is also the added benefit of looking even more awesome (IMO). And my favorite bullet point from an unnamed article, “You will become physically stronger.” Really? I sure hope so. But I am not here to get into all of this. Just know it to be true, and let’s move on…
What I want to talk to you about is my personal experience with strength training, why it holds a special place not just in my training schedule for the week, but also in my heart.
I am fighter. My favorite time in the gym is when I get to do drills and spar with my training partners. But those sessions have become so much more fun since I started consistent strength work. I fatigue much less quickly, even though I don’t do cardio unless I am preparing for a fight. My legs are more stable underneath me. I hit harder. I have better balance. My body stresses less under impact. I get much less sore from practicing the clinch. And I get all this from picking up really heavy things and putting them down twice a week. At first this was my motivation for sticking to my strength program. It was all about its complimentary value to my sport training. Then I started enjoying the training on its own.
Now I look forward every week to doing heavy back squats. It is my favorite lift. There is something so satisfying about putting over one and a half times my body weight on my back, pulling all the way down into the squat and driving back up. Just a single repetition at my max weight is so challenging, I’m not thinking about how “good” my workout was, how much I sweat, or anything really, other than the fact that I just succeeded in the lift. I know I used every fiber of my body, and all my concentration in those brief seconds. And that makes me happy and confident. When I started out, I wasn’t doing single repetition, max lifts. I spent quite a while training my body how to squat and how to recruit more and more of my energy into each lift. I only do singles every month or so. Leading up to that are higher repetition sets. The singles are just my favorite.
I prefer working with the barbell, but the kettlebell is another excellent heavy object to move around. Everybody has a different body, so some will feel more comfortable working with the barbell and some with the kettlebell. While we have added barbell work to our Strength and Conditioning classes, know that you can substitute the kettlebell for most of the lifts if you prefer. I just recommend trying the barbell. You may fall in love!
I practice other lifts as well, depending on my program. The back squats are just my favorite with the deadlift a close second. But I will bench, clean, front squat, or whatever else my program has in store for me. While I write program for others, I never write my own, or I would probably just do my favorites, making the disparities between my strengths and weaknesses even greater. So every Tuesday and Thursday I do what Tyler says, and I get stronger. Easy. No thinking, just concentration. So take advantage of our programmed classes, designed to give you balanced strength. Or work with a personal trainer for even more detailed one on one work.
Along with enjoying the training in and of itself, I like the progress in numbers I see. The concrete, quantifiable achievement is really satisfying. Last time I went for a single on a deadlift I really wanted to hit a new PR as my program had more focus on the deadlift for that cycle. I did it. I was happy. And next time I am hoping to hit 5 pounds higher. In Muay Thai I might be focusing on making my jab faster and stronger, and while I can improve on that, and feel it getting better, it is still very subjective. Knowing that next time I go for a single on a deadlift I really want to pull 240 pounds gives me a concrete goal that is a nice balance to the subtleties in improvement I see in Muay Thai.
Outside of the gym, life is easier as a strong woman. When I go to the farmers market I have no problem navigating the crowd with a few shopping bags stuffed with pounds of produce and meat on each arm, and when I get home I only have to take one trip in from the car, even if I have stopped at Trader Joe’s for more food. Speaking of groceries, I get to eat a lot of delicious food to fuel my training. I love cooking and eating, so this is a huge plus for me.
I can bolt through the airport with my overstuffed carry-on if I have a short layover and have no problem getting the bag in and out of the overhead compartment. I can take my big, awkward laundry bag up and down the stairs without a second thought. I can help friends move. Well, maybe that isn’t best part of being strong, but at least I have strong friends, so they can help me as well when the time comes! And for those women with kids, you can carry them around with ease.
Being a strong woman has high rewards, and all you have to do is put in the work at a consistent strength training program. Pick up heavy things and put them down with regularity. Since I started doing this my fight training has improved, I have more confidence, I perform life activities with ease, and I like my body better. Plus I enjoy the process. Win on all fronts. I don’t look at my strength training as getting a workout in. I am improving myself through dedicated practice. I encourage you all to do the same. Take Tyler’s Strength and Conditioning class, or starting in January you can take it with Jessica or me as well. If you prefer individual attention, try out personal training. Let’s all get stronger in 2015!