Strength is the foundation of nearly all physique and performance goals. When you’re strong, you more easily gain muscle size, lose fat, run faster, hit harder, and play longer.
Research has shown that strength training increases power and endurance and also:
- Helps control weight by boosting the metabolism
- Halts bone loss and even restores bone
- Improves balance
- Helps prevent bone fractures from osteoporosis
- Improves flexibility.
In addition, in women age 40 or older, strength-training helps prevent loss of muscle mass.
A strength training program may include free weights or weight-training machines. But you don’t need extensive equipment to do strength-training. You can do Pilates mat work, using simply a stability ball, or do exercises that use your own body weight for resistance, such as push-ups, sit-ups, lunges, squats, and dips.
Here are 7 exercises to get you started:
1. Chicken wings
Holding a set of dumbbells, stand with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, and elbows bent and in front of you at a 45-degree angle. Keep your forearms against the front of your body as you raise your elbows out and up through a count of 10. (Your neck and shoulders should be relaxed.) Hold and squeeze your triceps for 2 seconds, then return to starting position through a count of 10.
2. Chair dips
Sit on the edge of a sturdy chair or workout bench with your hands behind you and fingers pointed forward, grasping the front edge of the chair. Flex your feet so that your weight is on your heels and slide away from the chair. Keeping your back straight, lower yourself through a count of 10 seconds. Hold for 2 seconds, then push yourself back up to starting position through a count of 10.
3. The Twist
Sit on a mat with your knees bent and feet together. Keeping your abs tight, lean back slightly and extend your arms away from your chest and to the right with palms pressed together. Slowly rotate torso as far as possible to the left through a count of 10 seconds. Hold the position for 2 seconds, then rotate back to the right through a count of 10.
4. Bend Over
Holding a pair of dumbbells, with your arms extended and palms facing backward, stand with your feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent. Bend at the waist, as if tying your shoes. Raise your head and chest to create a slight arch in your back. Then, pull the dumbbells up and back in a slow, fluid rowing motion through a count of 10, keeping elbows close to body. Hold and squeeze shoulder blades together for 2 seconds. Lower the weights to starting position through a 10 count.
5. Plie Squat
Holding 1 dumbbell in both hands, stand with your feet about twice as wide apart as shoulder-width and your toes turned out to the sides. Squat as if sitting in a chair, taking 10 seconds to lower yourself (don’t let your knees go past your toes). Hold for 2 seconds, then push through your heels to return to the starting position through a count of 10.
6. Incline push-up
Prop yourself with your hands on a bench or stair so that your upper body is higher than your feet. Keeping your head up, your back straight, and your abs pulled in, lower yourself as far as you can through a count of 10 seconds. Hold for 2 seconds, then return to starting position through a 10 count.
7. Standing hammer curls
Holding a pair of dumbbells, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, and arms by your sides with palms facing in. Curl the weights up through a count of 10 seconds, keeping your palms facing each other. Hold and squeeze your biceps for 2 seconds. Then, lower the dumbbells to starting position through a count of 10.