As a certified strength coach and personal trainer, I’m constantly trying to encourage women to strength-train for optimal results. Many of my programs focus on compound, free-weight movements that target the major muscle groups, especially the lumbopelvic hip complex (glutes, back extensors, abdominals, hip flexors). Strengthening these muscles will increase core stability, decrease lower back pain and improve motor control. If your glutes aren’t strong, you aren’t strong! Using a few of these compound exercises, followed by more isolated movements will provide a well-rounded, total body workout and add definition to your shoulders, arms legs and, of course, glutes!!
Here are my top ten strength-training exercises that will add beautiful definition and strength to anyone’s physique! Try to strength train at least 2-3 times per week. Include a 5 minute warm-up, rest only 30 seconds between sets. Complete your cardio AFTER strength training sessions.
10.(Single Leg / Opposite Arm) Hip Hinge Cable Row
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This exercise strengthens the lumbopelvic hip complex, core, back muscles, arms and legs with a strong emphasis in glute/hamstring strength. Keep your balancing leg slightly bent at the knee, grab the cable with the opposite hand, hinge forward at the waist, keeping your back flat, reach arm forward, raise rear leg while keeping a neutral neck position. Try to make a “T” with your body. Keep the glutes activated throughout the movement. 3 sets / 12 reps, (each side). Try single leg, same arm!!
Practice makes perfect here!! This is one of the best back exercises you can do. It’s a staple for figure competitors! Use a wide grip on a counter balance machine until you can master the exercise on your own. Remember that this is a back exercise and you aren’t just pulling with arms. Focus on really using the back muscles here and keep abs engaged. Try pulling up and then slowly lowering down (negatives) to really tax the muscles. Supersets of unassisted followed by assisted reps also very effective. 3 sets / 10 reps
8.Low to High Cable Wood Chop (kneeling)
This is a great exercise for strengthening the core musculature, glutes, arms, and chest. Use a foam pad under your knee. You’ll want to use nice controlled reps here as you rotate and press upward. Focus on squeezing and pausing at the top of the movement. Adding a little speed is ok for more power but watch your form. Keep a neutral neck and head follows your hands. Draw your navel in towards your spine and tuck the pelvis under to activate the glutes. 3 sets / 12 reps each side.
7. Lateral Side Step with Bands or Tubing
Medial glute strength and core stability are the focus here! Again, we want to strengthen the hips and glutes, activating them as much as possible! Standing in a semi squatted position, with toes, hips and shoulders pointing forward at all times, ensures proper form. Keep your chest lifted and get low and go! Drive the leg laterally by focusing on the glutes and IT band. These are short ranges of motion and you’ll fatigue out pretty quickly here! 2 sets / 15 reps (each leg).
6. Barbell Bench Press (standard grip / close grip compound set)
This bench press is a challenging exercise targeting all of the major chest muscles, triceps and shoulders. Start with a standard grip, complete 10 reps, immediately move hands to shoulder width or closer, finish with 10 more reps. 3 sets / 20 reps
5. Arnold Press (shoulders)
Grab moderately heavy dumbbells, hold them in front with palms facing you, elbows bent at a 90 degree angle at shoulder height. Press up overhead and rotate palms out. SQUEEZE THE FRONT OF THE SHOULDER (anterior deltoid) and SLOWLY lower to starting position. 3 sets / 15 reps
4. Pendulum Lunge
This is a great exercise that targets, glutes, hamstrings and quads. Lunge forward and sink deep into a lunge, stand back up and lunge backwards with the same leg. That is one rep!! Maintain an upright torso and perfect form throughout. Again, activate the glutes and core for stabilization. 3 sets / 10 reps (each leg)
3. American Dead Lift
Just like the Romanian Dead Lift BUT you add a posterior pelvic tilt (tucking in the pelvis) and squeeze glutes at the top! Perfect for adding strength and shape to the glute/hamstring complex, not to mention a fundamental, total body exercise. 3 sets / 12 reps.
2.Barbell “Pause” Squats
Using PERFECT squat technique, pause the movement at your “sticking point” (Upper leg is about parallel to the floor). Hold for a count of 5, raise back up, and squeeze those glutes at the top!! Moderate weight. 3 sets / 8 reps.
1. Barbell Glute Bridge
My FAVORITE glute strengthening exercise of all time! You can go pretty heavy here, but maintain proper form throughout the movement. This exercise strengthens the lumbopelvic hip complex and activates glutes more than a vertical squat. Mastering this horizontal movement strengthens your butt, adding a nice shape, but will also teach your body to use glutes, instead of low back, for hip extension exercises. Win, Win! 3 sets/ 10 reps.
Remember ladies…cardio alone won’t strengthen your body or increase lean muscle. You must strength-train to see improvements in your physique and overall health! Don’t be afraid to get started and if you are, hire a certified trainer to help you, if only for a few sessions. Otherwise, get into a group strength-training class for starters or grab a professionally designed weight loss program. You’ll do great!! Train hard and train smart!