Liz Alvis Parry
In recent years there has been a notable backlash against the impossible ideal of fitting into a size zero. Instead, a new mantra of “strong not skinny” has taken social media by storm, with more and more women embracing the shift away from extreme thinness towards a more realistic, strong, healthy body.
“I’m really pleased that women are standing up and saying that being fit doesn’t have to be all about losing weight,” says Cecilia Harris, co-founder of Results with Lucy. “I love focusing on being ‘strong not skinny’ because it’s rebelling against the idea that size zero should be the goal of every woman.”
So how do you go about getting stronger? The ideal combination is a programme of strength training, plus an increase in your calorie intake in order to gain muscle and improve your fitness level.
“Strength training increases muscle mass in the body for toned muscles,” explains Cecilia. “You will need to increase the body’s ratio of lean muscle mass versus fat to achieve a fit, well-defined physique.” She recommends aiming to complete two to three strength-training sessions per week, with exercises that target all of the major muscle groups including the shoulders, arms, back, chest, legs, gluteals and core. A circuit-training programme of back-to-back exercises will keep your heart rate up to improve heart health as well. A sample workout may include squats, lateral raises, crunches, biceps curls, seated rows and walking lunges. Cecilia recommends doing each exercise for one minute before switching to the next for a total of three circuits.
If you’re going to be increasing the amount of exercise you do, then it’s vital to eat a healthy diet with enough calories to provide the energy needed for a robust workout. Ensure you are getting enough protein by consuming a protein shake before and after your workout as this will help to repair your muscles after vigorous activity. Try adding eggs to your usual breakfast for another protein hit and opt for something like a sweet potato with chicken and greens for dinner.
The “strong not skinny” mantra is no doubt helping women all over the world to feel more empowered and happier about their bodies. However, the important thing to bear in mind is that some women are naturally skinny and may struggle to put on weight or muscle. No one should feel pressured into looking a certain way – good health and fitness is what counts the most. As Cecilia says: “Feeling powerful, healthy and confident in yourself is what really matters.”
For inspiration on muscle-building work out plans and exercises, follow personal trainer and health coach Alexia Clark.