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Mums often sign up for “functional” training, but instead get training that doesn’t really build their strength towards the kind of function they need. I feel like trainers get confused between a compound exercise (ie. An exercise that moves across more than one joint) and functional training. To clarify my terms, an isolated exercise is one that moves across just one joint (ie. A bicep curl), a compound exercise moves across two or more joints (ie. A lat pull down), and a functional exercise is specific to a task.

Because of this, truly “functional” training will look very different for each individual, and it’s impossible to have a “one size fits all” to function.

However, if we’re thinking about the activities of daily life for any specific group of people, we can find movements that they perform everyday in common, and we can train for these. In the same way that a swimmer’s strength training program will look very different to a sprinter’s, a “functional” motherhood training program will look very different to a full-time-corporate-job-average man’s.

This month, we’re going to analyse what mums are doing everyday, and how we can incorporate function in to their training programs!

The Deadlift

Whilst the deadlift is important, and will help her perform her activities of daily life, it’s not just any deadlift, and it’s not starting tomorrow! You have to build up to a regular deadlift, starting from her deep core rehab and building up. Once you’ve got her performing a standard deadlift, then you start doing truly functional training – you’ll tweak it to mimic her activities the same way you train for running by running!

A truly functional deadlift for mums includes arm extensions, twisting, uneven weights, and wriggly weights (see pics and videos in comments)


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A post shared by Clare Hozack (@hozackc)



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A post shared by Clare Hozack (@hozackc)



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A post shared by Clare Hozack (@hozackc)

The Clean and Press… or power-lifting more broadly…

Now that I’ve shocked you, I want to caveat this recommendation with: THERE IS A PROCESS!!!

Just because I believe mums should be able to throw around a tonne of weight, doesn’t mean you go and start coaching your mums to do it without first completing your due diligence:

  1. Has she seen a women’s health physio?
  2. Has she restored her deep core?
  3. Has she built up to lifting heavy weights?

NOW we can start power lifting! Throwing weight loads the muscular and skeletal systems differently to heavy lifting, and in a good way. Power lifting, in the very least a clean and press, will make these women literal powerful mothers, as they’re learning to control momentum in the gym, and having to control momentum as a parent.

Here are some example of where I see power lifting helping a mum perform her activities of daily life:


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Also think about how one gets one’s child from the ground on to their shoulders?

The clean and press covers everything from hanging the laundry on the line to lifting a crying toddler on to your hip, and yes, we can train the hip thing too!

Farmers carry

For those unfamiliar, a farmer’s carry is where you hold two big old dumbells and go for a walk…Because why do six laps when you can do just one, loaded lap?

There are two main reasons why I like my mama clients to do Farmers Carry’s:

  1. It develops grip strength. Grip strength is an indicator of longevity in older adults, but it is also one of the muscle groups that hold women back in lifting powerfully in other movements, such as deadlifts and pulls ups.
  2. It makes life easier for women, stay at home mums in particular. Women will carry a 15kg carseat in one hand, and seven loads of shopping in the other. They will hang it from their elbows and shoulders, and they’ll be holding a variety of objects – think shopping bags, carseats, children, bikes, scooters, boogie boards, beach bags, etc.

So, in line with our previous discussions on true “function”, whilst you may build up to your farmers carry using even weights and standard grip sizes (keep in mind most dumbells are a standard, average MAN’s grip size, so they’ll be more difficult for women with smaller hands because they can’t get their thumb locked over their forefinger the same way); you can’t stop at even, standard weights. Get a a sandbag, a water ball, buckets and bags from the household, and her child (safely) to make it more specific to the task your training for!

Even better, add a sled push… ;-)

More ideas to mix it up here:

Full Squat/Crouch

Now in this scenario, I am once again NOT advocating for a perfect squat or lunge – rather, building on those patterns for mums, so that they have multiple options and resources for getting up and down with toddlers.

Now, some of this is going to feel like it’s going against the grain. You may have problems with some of the movements and variations that I give as examples. However, instead of blocking these ideas, perhaps view them as progressions from what you already know and currently train.

Squat patterns: to the haunches. No, they’re not bad for your knees, and they’re bloody brilliant for your hips, pelvis, feet, ankles, and bowels. Full squats on your toes adds another element of balance which is fabulous for balance, ankle reflexes, and core reactivity. And, perhaps most importantly, mums are already doing it all the time when they’re talking to little kids..

Lunges patterns aren’t as common as you think, with women often opting to bend over at their hips, like a soft deadlift. The leg muscles are much larger, and I do see common lunges in a “kneel to stand” context – so that is what you train (think about giving a baby belly time, or getting up after fishing for something under the couch).

The most common kind of lunge I see, though, is a crouch. The crouch is like a staggered squat. I rarely, if ever, see this trained in the gym (unless it’s one of my people). The crouch is an excellent way to reach the floor without bending the back, and a powerful way to lift heavy.

So, if you’re training mums, be sure to include full range squats, and crouches, instead of or as well as lunges. If you’re doing standard lunges, ensure you train them to the floor with a stop – if you want to be truly training for performance with your mums. 


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A post shared by Clare Hozack (@hozackc)


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A post shared by Clare Hozack (@hozackc)

If you’re including these basic movement patterns and skills in your training of your mama clients, you’re doing them a massive favour – because they will be more powerful for their movements of daily life! Just remember NOT to stop at a compound exercise – vary it so it’s truly functional and enjoy creating powerful mothers in your gym!!