Strong Women are the New Skinny

Strong woman strength training
Strong is the new skinny

Strong Women are ‘In’

Scrolling through social media today you’re more likely to see a woman doing a handstand, Olympic lift, or flipping a tire than flaunting a rail-thin physique. The new ideal female physique features toned muscles, sculpted curves, and not so subtle air of power. Articles like Why Strong is the New Beautiful detail this shift in the way society defines beauty. Strong women are now seen as powerful, accomplished, and most notably… beautiful.

woman doing a handstand
Whatever you can do, I can do better…

The concept of being a strong woman — physically and mentally — has become increasingly popular. This dramatic departure from the skinny obsession that’s dominated pop culture for decades begs one question, why did it take so long?

The Original Strong Women 

When I hear things like, ‘strong is the new skinny’, I think about Serena Williams. Some of you may not remember, but Serena was openly criticized much of her career for her ‘muscular build’. In the Sports Illustrated article, No Room for Body Image Criticism in Serene Williams’ Grand Slam Chase, describes the relentless judgment Serena faced. This was at a time when the only female athletes that openly flaunted muscular build were gymnasts.

What makes Serena’s story remarkable is how she reacted to the brazen comments.

Serena made no apologies for her build and in fact made it her signature, often flaunting it on and off the court.
Serena Williams looking strong
Strong and Sexy… no apology.

A New Era for Female Athletes

For the first time, it wasn’t just gymnasts flaunting strong bodies. There were tennis players like Serena, swimmers, powerlifters, and CrossFit champs like Brooke Ence celebrating their strong, muscular physiques.

Brooke Ence crossfit games
The 15 Most Badass Women Of The CrossFit Games

Social Media Changed Everything

With the advent of social media and this new version of beauty, for the first time, women saw images somewhere other than TV, movies, and magazines. Instagram and other social sites showcased new and different images of strong, powerful women.

Instagram strong

Image after image of curvy, sculpted bodies created an appetite for strength training that previously was seen as a male-dominated activity. Regular women were becoming athletes, with fans.

woman doing a handstand on instagram in a new tab)

Lean, Sculpted Muscles

In college, I worked for Gold’s gym packed with bodybuilders. It was my first experience with seeing women lift weights. The women there were not just lifting weights, they were lifting heavy weights and doing very little cardio.

I always thought the way to ‘lose weight’ or get lean was by running or doing cardio. That said, when I looked at the cardio machines the people using them were not lean, or cut up. The people on the weight floor, lifting weights looked much more cut and lean. As a former soccer player, I wanted that physique, not what I saw on the treadmills and ellipticals.

Before and after weight loss picture
New definition of beauty

Over the next several years I learned how they trained. What I realized was they trained differently. These four principals were consistent with all the bodybuilders I studied…

  • Followed very specific training plans for maximum muscle adaptation
  • Followed diets high in protein to build muscle
  • Did only light cardio only before shows
  • Cut carbs before shows to lean out

Using these techniques, and many others, they were able to achieve remarkable transformations for themselves and their clients.

That said, being a strong, powerful, lean woman is totally possible for a novice, but not with an Instagram routine pieced together and poorly executed. Not by joining a boutique that puts newbies under a squat rack the first day when they can’t even do a proper bodyweight squat. Not by joining a budget club where you basically rent equipment you don’t know how to use.

Begin with the Basics

Learning to strength train will involve learning the proper form, progression, and exercises to build strength. If you can afford a personal trainer that’s ideal, but you can teach yourself. I decided to pay for the personal training certification and learn myself, but that was before there was so much free information online.

If you’re wondering where to begin either with selecting a trainer or on your own, check out the Lazy Biohacker Strength Workout page. It outlines what I learned as a personal trainer and fitness junkie for the last couple of decades. You can start with that information and learn as you go.

Kelly is a shameless critic of the 'weight loss' industry that profits from women being overweight, unhappy, and confused. Kelly has spent the last 20 years as an industry under and seen the damage misinformation can do in women's lives first hand. After her own personal journey back to health, Kelly created this space in love to help other women to access the science of biohacking to achieve an ideal weight, look younger and bring their spirit back to life. Kelly is a mother of two, fitness executive, and road warrior.

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