Let’s Talk About Strength


My mother put me in gymnastics when I was 7 years old, for 2 reasons:

1) because I was no good at ice-skating, and

2) so that when I was in high school I could do a back handspring and make the cheerleading squad.

Little did she know that gymnastics would “take” for me, and that by the time I was in high school and eligible for cheerleading, I was training with my local gymnastics team 16 hours a week and had no time for anything else. Besides, I loved the individually competitive nature of gymnastics- I always competed against myself first.  Of course I never considered any fitness aspect of gymnastics… the focus of my thoughts was geared more towards whether I would stay on the balance beam in my next meet.   But now, 27 years after my “retirement” from the sport, I realise that gymnastics has given me a pretty solid foundation in strength and fitness… and the somewhat freakish ability to do a handstand even though I’m in my mid-40’s.  I give my mother some credit for this as well: understanding my self-competitive spirit, she told me when I quit gymnastics at age 17, “You should do a handstand every day, dear… then you’ll be able to do one for your grandchildren someday!”  I’m trying, Ma!!

My daily handstand
My daily handstand

Gymnastics did set me up in the strength department… so let’s talk about that for a second: strength.  The way I see it, being able to do a handstand is fun, I love to entertain my children with it, and I think of my Ma every time I do one.  But I want to stay strong for way more than that.  The older I get, the more I see that physical (and mental, of course!) strength contributes to ongoing independence.  Strength might keep you playing tennis when you’re 80 or running a marathon when you’re 75.  Or, strength might just keep you lifting groceries in and out of your cupboards, and going up and down your stairs for as many years as possible.

We have to be strong, for so many reasons!

What makes you feel powerful and strong?  For me, it’s pull-ups.  Sometimes I dream I can do about a million and it’s so easy… and then I wake up, ha!  I would never call them easy, but they do get easier, and nothing strengthens your back, arms, and grip, (even your abs!) like pull-ups.  Even hanging from the bar strengthens all of your pull-up muscles.  For my boot campers, I now have pull-up-assist cables… this will be a great way to train pull-ups when we all get back!

Pull-ups increase your strength faster than any other exercise!
Pull-ups increase your strength faster than any other exercise!

So try this strength circuit and let me know what you think.

If you don’t have a pull-up bar, you can substitute wide-grip rows.  If you make this substitution, then do “superman lifts” instead of the rows in Round 3.  Superman lift- lie on your stomach, palms facing down, arms close to your body, then lift your upper body off the mat and turn your palms away from you, still keeping your arms close to your body.



Warm up: 7-10 minutes (walk, run)

ROUND 1 (repeat 3x):

5-10 pull-ups (can substitute wide-grip rows)

20 squats

30 straight-leg crunches

RUN 5-7 minutes (one time only)

ROUND 2 (repeat 3x):

20 pushups

15 walking lunges (each leg)

1 minute plank (forearms)

RUN 5-7 minutes (one time only)

ROUND 3 (repeat 3x):

15 wide-grip rows (or Superman lifts)

20 plie squats

1 min bicycle crunches

2 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Strength”

    1. Amanda, I can’t run for 4 hours… so that inspires me tons!! 😉 I think our bodies are geared towards one or the other… not that we can’t make progress in a way we aren’t naturally gifted though! Thanks for your lovely comment!

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