Now more than ever, weightlifting is the star of the fitness show. It seems like more women than ever are getting into the strength-training game, and it's damn inspiring to see. If you'd like to jump on the weightlifting train as well, we've got you covered. 2018 is about to be your fittest year yet.
If weight loss is your goal, there are so many benefits to incorporating more weightlifting sessions into your routine, according to Ridge Davis, personal trainer in West Hollywood, CA. "Weight loss is a simple principle based on a healthy caloric deficit. Weightlifting raises your resting metabolic rate, which simply means the amount of calories your body burns in and out of the gym increases," he explained. Just one hour of strength training "will increase the amount of calories you burn the entire day, making it easier to stay in a caloric deficit."
Even if you're not trying to lose weight, though, weightlifting offers so much. "Besides feeling stronger and sexier, weightlifting is proven to reduce your stress levels and enhance your sleep," Ridge said. But if you've never lifted weights before, it can feel intimidating — where on earth do you start? This 12-month challenge is exactly what you need. Let's get to work!
January Challenge: Perfect Your Squats
Squats are a great place to start if you're just starting out with strength training. Ridge suggests working on barbell squats; you don't have to tack on much weight at the beginning, but don't be afraid to at least use the barbell. He recommends working on three sets of five reps at a moderately heavy weight, once or twice a week. As for long-term squat goals, Ridge says you should aim to "be able to squat your own bodyweight." Put in the work and you can definitely do it!
February Challenge: Focus on Pulling Movements
Exercises that are focused on pulling are the best way to shape up your whole back and get your upper body super strong. Ridge recommends working on chin-ups (two sets of five reps) and seated cable rows (two sets of 12 reps, working toward 0.75 times your bodyweight). When you just start out doing chin-ups, you'll have to do them assisted, either with an assisted pull-up machine or with a band underneath your feet. Work on these pulling movements twice a week and you'll reach your goals in no time.
March Challenge: Add More Protein to Your Diet
You can't expect your muscles to grow if you aren't feeding them enough protein. Experts say you should aim for 1.0 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight each day if you're lifting weights regularly. Not only will this help your muscles grow and recover, but protein also keeps your metabolism revved up throughout the day. Make sure you're eating whole sources of protein, like lean meat, fish, eggs, or soy.
April Challenge: Learn How to Deadlift
Deadlifts are a compound movement that require you to use many different muscle groups at once. You'll be surprised at how quickly you build up the strength to deadlift a heavy amount of weight. Ridge says you should aim to deadlift 1.5 times your bodyweight — but you have to start out slow. Start out on the light side, working on three sets at a time for several reps. It might be a good idea to schedule a session or two with a trainer, so they can show you the correct form and different variations.
May Challenge: Go Hard on Mobility
Weightlifting requires a lot of effort from your body, and you can't expect to make gains if you're dealing with an enormous amount of stiffness and pain every day. According to Ridge, you could greatly benefit by simply "adding 15 minutes of mobility and stretching to the end of your workout." Use the foam roller, do some Yin yoga, or have a trainer stretch you out at the gym. Your muscles will get the treatment they need to perform even better the next time you train!
June Challenge: Work on Several Different Push-Up Variations
You don't necessarily have to do a daily push-up challenge (although that wouldn't be a bad idea!), but shifting your focus to push-ups this month could transform your upper body. Ridge says you can simply start with doing two sets of 10 reps and increase the number of sets or reps from there. There are numerous push-up variations that target different parts of the body, so give them all a try and see how ripped your arms get.
July Challenge: Try a New Group Fitness Class
There are so many different fitness studios out there that incorporate strength training into their classes, from Barry's Bootcamp to Orangetheory Fitness. By this time, you'll probably be ready for a change in your routine, and these fun classes might be exactly what you need to get stronger while also continuing to enjoy your workouts.
August Challenge: Get Cozy With the Kettlebell
According to Ridge, "adding a kettlebell move to the beginning of your workout" can improve your strength. Whether it's a kettlebell swing, a kettlebell deadlift, or a kettlebell press, you've got lots to gain from switching up your movement and trying something new. If you need some inspiration, here are fat-blasting kettlebell moves that will take your weightlifting to the next level.
September Challenge: Find New Ab Exercises That Aren't Crunches
There isn't anything more boring than doing a bunch of crunches in a row, just hoping that your abs finally fire up. Rather than subjecting yourself to the same monotonous movements over and over again, try Ridge's go-to ab exercises: hanging leg raises (two sets of 15 reps) and two-minute planks or side planks. The stronger your core is, the more weight you can lift.
October Challenge: Practice Time Under Tension With Compound Movements
"Pick a compound movement (squats, leg presses, weighted lunges, rows, or bench presses) and press for 30 seconds for each set," Ridge explained. So rather than just lifting and lowering at a normal rate, spend a full five seconds pressing or lowering the weight away. This counts as one rep. Do that five more times to achieve the 30 seconds and complete one set. By playing with the speed in this way, you allow your muscles to work in a completely different way.
November Challenge: Try a New Piece of Equipment at the Gym
We're all creatures of habit, so it's easy to get attached to one kind of equipment. Maybe you're partial to the barbell, or perhaps you like your dumbbell routine. Whatever the case may be, use this month to try something new. If you've never really worked with cables before, try an upper-body cable workout. If you walk by the slide board every day at the gym but have never used it, now's the time to give it a shot. By changing things up, you ensure that you and your body don't get bored or plateau.
December Challenge: Find a Workout Buddy
Now that you've fallen in love with weightlifting and experienced its many benefits, it's time to pass it forward. Bring a friend to the gym with you and introduce them to strength training for the first time. Or maybe there's another woman in the weight room you keep saying hi to but never really had a chat with. Invite her to work out with you one day. You'll find that strength training is that much more fun when you have a friend by your side.