How to Build Physical Strength While Hardly Trying

Over the last few months, I have performed some lifts I previously didn’t think could be done by a gal my size. After exchanging some emails with Pavel, he asked me to write about how I made this happen. I was honest with him and told him I didn’t train for it or even try very hard. In fact, the path I took was quite boring. Then I remembered I’m writing for a population that likes “boring” programs. Not boring in our eyes, but it would be as boring as it comes for the mainstream fitness buff.

Physical Strength Starts With Mental Health

How to Build Physical Strength While Hardly TryingI discovered that strength can work in mysterious ways. Living with toxic stress and/or poisonous people can weigh you down in all aspects of life. There’s only so much one body and mind can take. I’ve found for both my students and me, stress takes strength away and makes all lifts feel heavy. You find yourself training harder during the times you are stressed and risk getting weaker or injured in the process.

But letting go of the energy vampires and truly owning the path you take in life is much easier said than done. If everyone could take charge of their own life, we’d have a lot of powerful happy people. Personally, I’ve released some heavy things from my life over the last year. I will admit, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. On the flip side, once I got through the thick of it and began to have clarity, it allowed me to conquer almost anything that came my way.

How to Build Physical Strength While Hardly Trying

Back to physical strength: I currently weigh between 112 and 114 pounds. In the last several months, with minimal training, I achieved a 62lb get-up, 13 ring pull-ups, 140lb single-leg deadlifts, and a ring pull-up with 53 pounds hanging from my feet. Paradoxically, I trained less and left each session feeling energized without fatigue. How did this happen? Below is a sample program that I’ve intuitively used over the past several months.

Sample Weeks 1 & 2

Monday

A.
Get-up, 20kg, 1/1
Light one-arm swings, 16kg, 6/6
High plank with shoulder taps*
2 sets

*High plank with shoulder taps: Start in a push-up position with your arms shoulder width apart and legs a bit wider (swing stance length). Squeeze your glutes, imagine bringing your pelvis to your rib cage, and make sure your lats are activated by pulling your shoulders into the sockets. Without rotating your hips, tap your shoulder with one arm and then switch back and forth. Hold each tap for 2-3 seconds.

B.
Pull-ups* on straight bar, 6 reps
Bodyweight stationary lunges
Roll-outs on wheel, 6-8 reps
3 sets

*Each set is a different type of pull-up: mixed grip on set two, ring pull-ups on set three.

Wednesday

A.
Get-up, 24kg, 1/1
One-arm swings, 20kg, 6/6
Walk around for 30 seconds
2 sets

B.
Double single-leg deadlift, 24kg, 5/5
Clean and press, 16kg, 3/3
Thoracic mobility plank, 3 breaths per side
Repeat for 4 sets

Friday

Get-up, 24kg, 1/1
Weighted pull-up, 8kg, 3
1 set

Tabata drills with ropes – 4 minutes

Sample Weeks 3 & 4

Tuesday

A.
Half get-up to high bridge, 20kg, 3/3
One-arm swings, 20kg, 8/8
High plank with shoulder taps, 6/6
2 sets

B.
Weighted Pull-ups* on straight bar 2-3 reps
Body weight stationary lunges
Roll-outs on wheel 6-8 reps
3 sets

*Each set is a different type of pull-up starting with a light bell on your foot and working towards heavier sets. Mixed grip on set two, ring pull-ups on set three.

Thursday

Get-up, 24kg, 1/1
One-arm swings, 24kg, 5/5
3 sets

Friday

A.
Get-up, 24kg, 1/1
One-arm swings, 20kg, 6/6
Walk around for 30 seconds
2 Sets

B.
Double single-leg deadlift, set 1: 24kg, 5/5; set 2: 28kg, 4/4; set 3: 28kg, 3/3
Clean and press, set 1: 16kg, 3/3; set 2: 18kg, 2/2; set 3: 20kg, 1/1
Thoracic mobility plank, 3 breaths per side
3 sets total

Sample Week 5

Do two practice training sessions from previous weeks without over doing it. If you’re feeling strong, this can be a test week.

  • Do a get-up test with the next bell size up, preferably with a spotter near.
  • On Saturday, do a max rep pull-up test.

Sample Week 6

Do two practice training sessions from previous weeks without over doing it. This is also the week to test your weighted pull-up.

Use this method to work progressively to test your weighted pull-up (with your preferred grip):

  • Weighted pull-up, 4 reps
  • Rest
  • Heavier Weighted pull-up, 3 reps
  • Rest
  • Even Heavier weighted pull-ups, 2 reps
  • Rest
  • Heavier weighted pull-ups, 1 rep
  • Rest
  • Max test weighted pull-up, 1 rep

Enjoy and let us know how you do! You can learn even more about the fundamentals of strength by attending one of our upcoming Bodyweight Certifications.

Lauren Brooks

Lauren Brooks, SFG Team Leader, is the owner of On The Edge Fitness in Encinitas, California.


Lauren earned her B.S. in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Fitness, Nutrition, and Health from San Diego State University in 2002.


She went on to become kettlebell certified under Pavel Tstasouline in 2005 and currently holds certifications as an SFG Team Leader, StrongFirst Barbell Lifting, ACE Fitness Trainer, Clinical Nutritionist, Functional Movement Specialist, TRX and Battling Ropes.


Teaching a variety of people, especially females and mothers, how to be strong, empowered, and ready for life is what she does.


Lauren, mother of two little girls, continues to lead by example. You can find out more about Lauren by visiting her visiting On the Edge Fitness and her blog


Lauren Brooks on FacebookLauren Brooks on InstagramLauren Brooks on PinterestLauren Brooks on TwitterLauren Brooks on Youtube

22 thoughts on “How to Build Physical Strength While Hardly Trying

  • Yea Lauren! More greatness coming from you for us! Just want to give a shout out for your new dvd, The Kettlebell Body. I notice on that dvd you are offering training routines similar to what you posted here. I thought they would be too easy. Right. Lift heavy and its an amazing workout.

    I’m just newly back to KB’s, after starting out with your first two dvds about 4-5 years ago. I was so weak when I started again two weeks ago-could only swing and press 15 pounds, but today, thanks to your workouts, in just 6 short workouts of yours (12-20 min) I am easily swinging 35 pounds and pressing 25. Going to go up to a 53 KB through your site soon!

    Less really is more with KB’s. Also, people should check for food intolerances that cause inflammation that can weaken us. I can’t have gluten, dairy, soy, artificial sweeteners, and of course, sugar. What a difference it makes to not eat that stuff for me.

    I refer everyone to your site when they ask me how I’m losing weight so fast 😉 God bless! Theresa

    • Wow Theresa! First off congratulations on your increase in strength. I’m so pleased the The Kettlebell Body has helped you get there in addition to you fully “Getting it”. People who don’t have the proper load, will not understand my latest DVD. You get it and are fully seeing the results intended. Way to go!

      Thank you again your beautiful words. It’s deeply appreciated!

      All the best,

      Lauren

  • Pretty cool programming you’ve been following Lauren. Got plenty of posterior chain in there and a healthy dose of low load high tension work, can’t ever go wrong with that. Happy to see some iso lunges in there 🙂

  • Inspiring stuff Lauren and a great read! Well done!

    On the pull ups, were you a long way from failure on all but test sets or did you wave this closer to failure over the week (i.e. sometimes leaving just a rep in the bank)?

    Increasing my consecutive chin up numbers is my aim and at the moment I am using GTG along with ladders to do that but I have to constantly fight not pushing too hard.

    • Hi Carl,

      Thanks for the praise!

      Great question. With my pull-up practice I gave 65-70% effort leaving a few in the bank. Just super easy relaxed training. Then I gave my body some rest before I tested a maximum repetition. I like to test max reps once every few months.

      I definitely understand about fighting against not pushing to hard. We are wired to want to test ourselves every time. Over the years I have found that being calm during my training has allowed me to save my energy for when I truly need it for a “test” day.

      Happy training and please keep us all posted!

      Take care,

      Lauren

  • Thanks for this post Lauren! I totally can relate to stress/emotional state making lifts heavy. I experienced recently in my RoP training. The change in perspective makes a huge difference!

  • Hi Lauren!

    I’m always showing women that video of you and Katie from My Mad Methods : ) It is very inspiring to those who think strength has to come with massive bulk!

    Was wondering what the Thoracic Mobility Plank is? I have a very tight T-Spine and am always looking for new ways to work on it.

    Thanks!

    Steve

  • This is a very good complement to Pavel’s “Lifts, Feats, and Exercises” blog post. A woman weighing in the low 100’s doing a TGU with a bell that looks bigger than her is quite a feat. Amazing! I don’t think the Iron Maiden Challenge would be much of a challenge for you.

    A greater challenge/feat: convincing more women to get off the ellipticals, put their running shoes away, and pick up a kettlebell.

    Great post and thanks for sharing your thoughts on toxic stress and poisonous people.

  • hi Lauren,
    To quote “You find yourself training harder during the times you are stressed and risk getting weaker or injured in the process.” You know what? That just started alarm bells ringing in my head!!! For the last several months I have been working in a pretty intensive job both physically and mentally. On the days that I come home feeling stressed or just p!$#ed off I think to myself ‘I’ll just have a hard and intense workout and will feel better’ trouble is might I feel good for that evening, or might not but I pay for it the next couple days. And It doesn’t really accomplish anything. Maybe now I’ll just try remember this article or better yet print out that quote. And try to not to punish myself for something I can’t control and stick with my program. Thanks a lot Lauren even if you didn’t mean too. I think you have opened my mind to a different way of thinking. And maybe saved my body a few aches and pains.
    All the best niggel

    • Hi Niggel,

      I can’t express to you have pleased I am that this has opened a new way of thinking for you. Customizing our training to our current stress levels is a key factor. Less is more! Thanks again for the feedback. Please keep in touch!

      Best,

      Lauren

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