Resistance training is much more than “buffing up.”
It is critical to attaining a more efficient metabolism, avoiding injury, and aging independently, among other things. Resistance, or strength, training simply makes everything easier.
And the good news is you don’t have to join a gym and learn how to use 15 different machines with menacing metal parts (and a few soft ones where some part of your body is supposed to go). All you need to do effective resistance is your own body—and if you want, some dumbbells, a medicine ball, and/or kettle bell (pictured).
How do you start? With resistance training, start with 2 or 3 exercises, and add 1 or 2 more every 2 or 3 weeks as you build strength. Work the large muscles first and do multi-joint before isolation, more intense before less intense.
Let’s start with the lower body and a cherished classic: the squat. Squats and lunges are great exercises that can help you get strong and “build a butt” while you’re at it.
With squats, start by aligning your rear to the rear of your feet, and bend at a 45-degree angle from hips, arms out (in front). Your knees never go beyond your toes, and you stick out your butt as if sitting down on a chair. Actually, using a chair to start is a good idea.
- Stand with a chair behind you.
- Place your feet slightly farther than shoulder width apart.
- Bring your arms out in front of you.
- Squat back as if you are going to sit down on the chair.
- Touch the chair briefly.
- Stand back up, dropping your hands to the sides.
- Repeat for a total of 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps.
Don’t squat past the point in which your knees are parallel to the floor. If the chair is too low, place a pillow on it to bring it to the proper height. Here’s a video showing you how (“Skip Ad”): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QKKZ9AGYTi4
If you really want a challenge, try a one-legged chair squat. Place one foot up on a chair (behind you), squat down with the same rules as above (no knees past toes and keep back in alignment). One-legged chair squats good for lower body strength, hip flexibility, and balance (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqGBqB-fG6w&feature=related for example).
For even more of a challenge, hold a weight in each hand as you do the squats.
Now for the upper body and everybody’s favorite exercise—the PUSHUP! If the idea of doing even one pushup seems overwhelming, start by doing them against the wall. You get the resistance from your body weight with less stress on your elbows. How to do it:
Place your hands on the wall, with hands and feet both shoulder width apart, elbows bent. With your hands in place, step back until your arms are straight. Now lean your whole body forward (bring hips along, not just your shoulders), then push yourself back, keeping your elbows flexed slightly. Do 3 sets of 15.
If this feels ok, graduate to the bent-knee variety, shown below.
Start by lying face down on your mat or carpet. Place your hands beside or directly below your shoulders. Cross your ankles and lift your feet as pictured. Remember to keep your body aligned from head to knees, and tighten your abs. Exhale and push upward until your arms are fully extended, and then inhale as you lower yourself until your upper torso almost touches the floor.
Check out “Exercise is Medicine.”
–Keep moving, Jen Katt