We spoke to Erin Maw, one of the talented fitpros behind Les Mills' Strength Development program, to find out why progressive strength training is a trend worth exploring – and what you can expect when you start on your strength-building journey

What instigated the creation of Strength Development?

ERIN MAW: “Here at Les Mills in New Zealand, Les Mills Jnr and Jackie Mills led the development of seasonal workouts that we trial for short seasons in the Les Mills clubs. It allows us to play in that innovative space, test what works and create some hype and excitement in our clubs too. Strength Development is one of our seasonal workouts. It was born from John Nicodemus, Glen Ostergaard and myself sharing lots of cool ideas based on different types of strength training protocols: foundational strength – which is learning the techniques; pure strength; hypertrophy – which is building muscle; and power. We explored lots of ideas and different structures and landed on six workouts that were added to the Les Mills club timetables. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. People loved how it was different to BODYPUMP, but a great complement. So we got to work creating more workouts, which are now available on LES MILLS+ and coming to fitness clubs soon.”

And it’s been a real team effort bringing this program to life?

EM: “It's the plethora of expertise that helps this program be so amazing. At the start, Glen Ostergaard – BODYPUMP Program Director and all-around strength and group fitness guru – helped shape the program. As did John Nicodemus – he's a strength and conditioning coach and a personal trainer who knows the insides of Crossfit and specializes in Olympic lifting and strength training. Rob Lee, a physio and technical consultant with a strong sports and strength and conditioning background, has also been involved from early on. He is all about safety and range. We also brought in Ben Main, who you'll know from many LES MILLS programs. He's got so much sports, strength and personal training and group fitness expertise. And then there’s me, with a strong sports background and so much group fitness experience. Between us, we really do just cover it all.”

Strength Development is different to other LES MILLS WORKOUTS, can you explain how it works?

EM: “There are 12 workouts that you need to do in order because they’ve been carefully designed to build strength in phases, based on strength and conditioning science. You can, and should, repeat the workouts a few times. Just makes sure you do the workouts in the correct order and you will safely and effectively maximize the gains.”

What will surprise people about Strength Development?

EM: “Anyone can do it! It is accessible and inclusive. Strength training can feel quite intimidating – it’s hard to get into it if you don’t feel confident, or you are worried about getting injured. With Strength Development, we give you really good structure and a solid foundation. We take you on the journey so you know what you need to do and you know how to train safely and effectively. And if you do strength training all the time, you’ll definitely learn some fresh structures and add some spark to your strength work.”

Men will get great results, and for females it’s amazing …

EM: “I just love that Strength Development transcends gender. As a female, this workout makes me feel so empowered and so strong. The reason I do what I do is to represent strong, athletic females and show females that they shouldn't be intimidated by strength training. Women need strength training. As we get older, we reduce our ability to build and retain muscle, so strength training is absolutely essential.

People have a misguided perception that strength training will make them look bulky. It won’t! When people have extreme gains and look remarkably muscly it’s because they combined a number of factors; nutrition, supplements and really specific and strategic training. Strength Development is world-class strength training for regular people. It will make you strong, it will make you powerful, but these workouts alone won’t build a bulky body.”

How have you personally benefited from Strength Development?

EM: “The best part is lifting heavier, and that’s such a good feeling! I started squatting with 20kg on the bar and now I can easily squat with 30kg. I love knowing – and seeing – that I am getting stronger and developing athletic muscle. Aesthetically I’ve changed – in the three months after I started Strength Development, I built a lot of muscle. But the aesthetic changes are just a small incidental part of it.

Another reason I love Strength Development is that you have full control. I choose what weight I want, and I choose how many reps I want to do. It’s all on my terms. And it’s just so empowering. I love keeping up with the guys, doing the same number of push-ups as the boys, there’s something just really empowering in that. Cardio is great when you want to feel fit and fun. But Strength Development leaves you feeling fierce and powerful and so strong.”

How has increased strength had knock-on benefits for other parts of life?

EM: “I am training for a marathon, something I never ever thought I would be able to do – but Strength Development has helped remarkably. This type of training strengthens your bones and the stabilizing muscles around your joints. It makes your glutes, hamstrings and quads so much more powerful, plus it strengthens your core. And research shows that a stronger core makes you a better runner. Strength Development has ABSOLUTELY helped me perform better – for sure!”


  • If you're working out with LES MILLS+ start with Strength Development #1 and progress through the workouts in order.
  • Don’t race through all the workouts. Do each workout at least a couple of times and make sure you feel comfortable with all the moves before you move on.
  • If you’re new to strength training, start with two sessions a week and begin with light weights. If you’ve been lifting for a while, try 2-3 sessions a week.
  • Combine these sessions with cardio, flexibility, and if you choose, some HIIT.
  • You can also do these workouts alongside BODYPUMP, but avoid strength training on consecutive days, and have at least one full day of rest each week.

Watch Erin and John’s 2-minute introduction to Strength Development and check out the workouts on LES MILLS+.


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