Strength training might not make it to the very top of your gym priority list, but getting stronger can have some surprisingly beneficial effects. Stronger muscles and joints reduce your risk of injury, and getting stronger will also increase your confidence, according to strength coach Nia Shanks. You can't go wrong with a basic routine based around the deadlift, squat and bench press, and to keep your motivation up, it's good to have some targets to aim for.
Deadlifts involve lifting a barbell from the floor to waist height, and they work your hamstrings, glutes, lower back and core. An advanced female lifter weighing 97 pounds or below should be able to deadlift 175 pounds, while an advanced 165-pound lifter should strive for 260 pounds, according to strength coach Lon Kilgore of the training website ExRx. To look at it another way, deadlifting double your body weight means you're pretty strong, according to Shanks, while a good deadlift is 150 percent of your body weight, a very good deadlift is between 175 and 200 percent of your body weight, and if you can deadlift 225 percent or more, you're exceptionally strong, adds coach Sally Moss of Gubernatrix.com.
For a squat to count, you need to descend until your knees are just lower than your hips. This gives every lifter a level playing field, plus it increases your glute and hamstring activation, which is good news for that bikini body you're after. The ExRx standards state that a 97-pound woman should be able to squat 130 pounds, and a 165-pound women should be able to squat 200 pounds to be considered advanced. Shanks' take on a strong squat is that it's one and a half times your body weight, with which Moss agrees.
Like squats, you need to be strict when benching -- pause momentarily with the bar touching your chest so you'e not using excess momentum and avoid doing half reps, as these take the focus away from your target muscle groups. Your bench press will definitely be the lowest of the three lifts, but strong 97-pound females should aim for 95 pounds and 165-pound females should aim for 145 pounds. Moss claims you need to be able to bench at least 75 percent of your body weight to be strong and more than 100 percent to be very strong.
These goals aren't set in stone, and the only targets you should really aim to break are your own. Keep pushing to lift a little more each workout or add extra sets and reps. Regarding the ExRx standards, there are also multiple goals for women of different weights and abilities, so use your initiative and set yourself achievable but challenging targets. Don't let your pursuit of numbers on the big three take away from your other goals -- you still need to train your other body parts and include other methods of training such as circuits, high-intensity cardio, stretching and core work.
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.