How to Use Weights at the Gym Like a Boss
The weight room can be a stinky, smelly place without a lot of friendly faces, and it can be intimidating especially to weight-lifting beginners. But pumping some iron is required if you want that powerful action star body (hello, Cara D). While you can lift weights in the comfort of your own home, two women want to empower ladies to grab those barbells by the horns and take over weight rooms all over the world.
Olympic weightlifters Erin Parker and Nidhi Kulkarni launched Spitfire Athlete, an app with step-by-step workout plans designed to help women build confidence and reach their fitness goals. The pair developed the resource because most information about building muscle was geared towards men. Products that they found for women prioritized weight loss and aesthetic goals over performance (and yes, far too much cardio). “The products were geared towards the audience that has been buying strength resources for a longer time,” Parker says. “Competitive powerlifting wasn’t open for women until 35 years ago, so it’s only now starting to trickle down.”
For easing into the weight room, Parker and Kulkarni (pictured above) recommend starting with just the barbell and adding weight as you get used to the motions. Their beginner’s workout, “The Warrior,” uses four lifts combined with warm ups and cool downs that strengthen a range of muscles. “These lifts require you to use your body as a unit to move a mass, and this is what creates full-body strength that athletes use,” Parker says.
“We believe that if every woman went through one of these linear strength progressions and realized how strong she could become, it would open her eyes to see how powerful she really is.” Scroll on for four powerful exercises that focus on strengthening, rather than increasing mass.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, with your toes pointing out at a 30-degree angle. The key is parallels. You want your feet to align with your knees when you lower yourself down. Make the thighs parallel to the ground and push off with your heels. Try three sets of five reps.
Hold onto the barbell with an overhand grip. Check that your elbows are pointing straight to the floor, not diagonally like chicken wings. Lift the bar up until your arms are fully extended, lower it down and press it back up. Try three sets of five reps.
You might want to grab a friend to spot you for this one. With your feet flat on the floor, lay back on the bench. Grip the bar so your forearms are perpendicular and just slightly wider than shoulder-width distance apart. Unpack the bar. Now puff up your chest — that adds support for your upper back — and push the bar up. As you lower the bar, your elbows should form a 90-degree angle. Try three sets of five reps.
With your feet shoulder-width apart, bend over and grab the bar, which should be in front of your feet. Raise your chest up and lift the bar. It should feel like you’re pressing your feet into the ground. Keep your tush engaged for the entire lift. Try one set of five reps.
(Photos via Spitfire Athlete)