Hit every muscle group with this full-body strength training session from Ro Feilden-Cook, personal trainer, mindset coach and founder of The SHE Collective.
Strength training for women has gained in traction and popularity over the past few years – and for good reason. The benefits of strength training include, but are not limited to, keeping muscles and bones strong, strengthening joints, improving heart health and increasing resting metabolism. Plus, regular sessions can also improve body confidence and mental wellbeing – win, win!
Despite what you may have seen in the media, strength training for women does not need to involve complicated moves or high-tech equipment to be highly effective and empowering. By starting slow with simple moves and a pair of dumbbells, you can gain strength while going at your own pace and gaining confidence in the moves. This full-body workout is designed to do just that.
So, what are you waiting for? Grab those dumbbells and get ready for a full body burn.
How to do this workout:
- Work through the following 9 moves with a pair of dumbbells (suggested weight 3-7.5 kg each)
- Exercise for 45 seconds, followed by a 15 second rest
- Complete 2 or 3 rounds in total
Check out these sandbag exercises for full body strength.
1. Goblet squats
The squat is one of the foundational exercises for building lower body strength. Adding weight to your squat can be extremely useful — for both increased strength and injury prevention. This movement is also a great exercise for all fitness levels.
- Stand with your feet wide and slightly turned out, pointing your knees in the same direction as your toes. Hold the dumbbells vertically, gripping them with both hands. Keep the dumbbell close to your chest throughout the entire movement.
- Inhale and begin to squat, sitting back in your hips, keeping your core tight and torso upright. Keep your feet flat on the floor throughout the movement and avoid lifting your heels.
- Then, exhale and engage your glutes as you straighten your legs and return to standing. Repeat.
2. Bent over rows
A bent over row is a great exercise to work the back muscles. It also works on trunk and hip stability.
- To get into the starting position, keep your spine neutral and tilt your torso forward, pointing your tailbone toward the upper wall behind you. Keep your core tight and legs still, but avoid locking your knees.
- As you exhale, lift the dumbbells up toward the sides of your chest, or beside the bottom of your rib cage.
- Lower the weights in a controlled manner to the starting position as you inhale. Remain bent over and repeat the rowing motion.
3. Plank pull throughs
Plank pull throughs are a great alternative to the classic plank. Just like a regular plank, this compound movement will work your core muscles. In addition, it will also challenge the stability in your shoulders and arms and help to address muscle imbalances between both sides.
- Start on all fours with the dumbbell on the left side of your body. With your palms flat, raise up off your knees onto your toes with straight legs. Be sure to gently squeeze your glutes to engage them and keep your hands directly underneath your shoulders.
- Contract your abs to keep yourself up and prevent your bottom from sticking up. Remember to keep your belly button pulled in.
- Maintaining this form, grab the dumbbell from the left side with your right hand and pull it underneath your body until it’s on your right side. Make sure you do not rotate your hips.
- Next, with control, grab the dumbbell with your left hand and pull it underneath your body until it’s back on your left side. Continue repeating the movement, passing the dumbbell from one side to the other and back again.
4. Straight leg deadlifts
The major benefit of the stiff leg deadlift is its effect on your posterior chain (the muscles in your backside). By strengthening it, you benefit not only your posture and lower back strength, but also your explosive power, jumping and running abilities.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold your dumbbells in overhand grip with palms facing you. Your knees should be slightly bent, with the aim to maintain this throughout the movement.
- Bend at your hips and lower the dumbbells, keeping your back straight. Lower until you feel the stretch in your hamstrings and glutes, then slowly straighten back to standing.
- Repeat, keeping the movement slow and controlled and the weights close to your body throughout.
5. Upright rows
An upright row is an effective exercise to build strength in the shoulders and upper back. It’s also a great functional fitness move as it target the muscles on the backside of your body.
- Stand with legs shoulder-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at hip height, with palms facing the front of your body.
- Engage your core and pull the dumbbells up towards your shoulders, making sure to keep the dumbbells close to your body by allowing the elbows to come up and out to the sides.
- Continue raising the dumbbells until they are at mid-chest height or shoulder-height, based on what feels more comfortable for you.
- Reverse the movement by slowly lowering the dumbbells to the starting position, before repeating the movement again.
6. Russian twists
Russian twists are a great exercise for building core and shoulder strength. They require a lot of strength and stability, however, they are also easily adapted for beginners by pressing your feet into the floor or extending them straight out in front of you.
- Sitting on the floor, grab a dumbbell and hold it with both hands around the middle.
- Elongate and straighten your spine at a 45-degree angle from the floor, creating a V shape with your torso and thighs.
- Twist your torso to the right, then reverse the motion and twist to the left.
- Engage your abdominal and back muscles as you continue repeating the exercise.
7. Split squats
The dumbbell split-squat is a squat variation you can use to build strength and power in your legs and hips, particularly the quads. One advantage over a traditional squat is that it works the legs individually to build balanced lower-body strength.
- Assume a staggered stance, stepping one foot in front of you and the other a step behind you. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at either side.
- Bend your front knee to lower into lunge until your thigh is parallel with the floor. Make sure you don’t let the front knee bend beyond the toes. Allow the back knee to bend until it’s hovering just above the floor.
- Engage your legs and drive up to start position before repeating.
- On your second round, perform the exercise on the opposite leg.
8. Wide bicep curls
Dumbbell wide curls are an excellent variation on traditional bicep curls, giving you well-defined arms and shapely shoulders.
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart.
- Holding a dumbbell in each hand, turn your arms outward with palms facing up and elbows slightly bent.
- Bend at your elbows and engage your biceps as you pull the weights up, moving in a wide angle toward your ears.
- Extend your arms out wide to lower the weights and return to the start position, then repeat.
9. Weighted overhead sit-up
This exercise is a progression of a normal bodyweight sit-up. While overhead sit-ups similarly target the rectus abdominis and hip flexors, the added weight in this exercise provides an extra challenge, resulting in a stronger core.
- Lie on your back and hold a dumbbell above you, with one hand on either end and arms extended. Bend your knees at a 90-degree angle and keep your feet firmly planted on the floor.
- While holding the weight above you, engage your core and raise your upper body toward your knees. Try to keep your back and neck in a straight line here. Your bottom and feet should remain on the floor.
- Hold this position for a few seconds, then lower back to the starting position with control before repeating.
Personal trainer, mindset coach and founder of The SHE Collective app, Ro Feilden-Cook, is passionate about helping women find confidence and energy through a combination of exercise, nutrition and mindset. To learn more about The SHE Collective app (created in partnership with Sudor Interactive) and to start your 7-day free trial, visit sudor.fit/gym/The-SHE-Collective.