“Strength training has been seen as this male-dominated area, all about body building,” explains Tim Walker, the founder and head trainer at Evolve Fitness. “There’s a fear about getting too bulky, which really won’t happen if you’re training properly.”
So where to start? We spoke to Walker and other strength-training experts to find out which exercises and programmes will have you confidently walking into the weights room, looking and, more importantly, feeling stronger in time for the summer.
1 Best for a training plan
Evolve’s Warrior Workout, overseen by Walker, is a 12-week intensive programme aimed at busy, working professionals seeking to transform their bodies and minds. “Basically, you give us control of your life for 12 weeks,” says Walker. “Although the plan is tough, we’re realistic in our approach. We understand the challenges of a busy career in the city and we can help you navigate those challenges.”
The programme allows you to push your body and your mind in a safe environment with qualified trainers. “Learning from a friend or random internet videos is the quickest way to injury,” says Walker. It focuses on consistently challenging your current level of strength, while encouraging you to overcome the mental barriers of intense exercise. “Mental strength is the most important aspect of strength training; it’s where the body you’re trying to create begins. [At Evolve], you’ll be in an environment that inspires success. No one is plodding along on a treadmill without purpose. Every client is there to change her life.”
Warrior Workout, £4,000 for a 12-week programme, Evolve Fitness
2 Best for fat loss
A lot of women “love the idea of strength training but they’re concerned it will turn them into the Incredible Hulk. This couldn’t be further from the truth,” Shannon Jewell, the concept manager at One LDN reassures. “The hottest celebratory training methods for fat loss and body sculpting now incorporate strength-training methods”, meaning you should look to strength-based sessions “if you’re looking to drop a dress size fast, lift and sculpt your abs, arms and bum”.
Similarly, “strength-training classes are often mistaken for laborious exercises and packed out weights areas,” Jewell says, which is why One LDN aims to be “a breath of fresh air”. Its WOD [Workout of the Day] classes are “based around essential strength exercises such as squats, deadlifts and weightlifting, which encourage multiple muscle groups and joints to move.” In comparison to “repetitive treadmill runs [where] the body is very good at adapting to exercise, this type of strength training shocks your neural system into changing shape and burns loads of calories”, resulting in strength progression and a key reduction in body fat.
WOD, £20 a class, One LDN