If you’ve neglected strength training, you might want to ask yourself why. The movements don’t have to be complicated, are easily scaled for beginners, and have tremendous health and wellness benefits.
Incorporating some weight lifting into your training protocol with not only improve your strength levels, but will lead to good bone health and heart health. Want to prevent or minimize osteoporosis (bone loss)? Lift some weights!
Maintaining muscle mass and bone density isn’t the only reason for performing resistance exercises. It’s anti-aging in other ways — from improving balance, stability, coordination, posture, stamina, endurance, even mental health. Want another bonus? As muscle takes calories to build and maintain, resistance exercises can be effective at burning fat.
The easiest way for beginners to perform full body resistance exercises is with dumbbells. Barbells and kettlebells are great tools too, but are more technical in their application. You’ll be able to maintain better form with a simple dumbbell exercise, and they’re generally less intimidating to work with. If you’re really interested in learning proper barbell or kettlebell form, I highly recommend the use of a qualified and experienced trainer.
You don’t need a full set of dumbbells to get started. The routine I’m sharing in this post only requires a single bell. While you may want to use different weight for different exercises, you can always perform a move more slowly to increase the difficulty. Slowing down or speeding up repetitions is a great way to make an exercise more challenging, or easier. Alternatively, you could increase or decrease the number of reps you perform. The bottom line – you can do a lot with a little.
Before you begin training, perform a good warm-up. Do some foam rolling, joint mobility or do some dynamic stretches. Alternatively, you could do some light jogging, jumping jacks or even jump rope just to get your heart-rate up.
Note: Always check with your physician or health-care provider before beginning any exercise program. These guidelines are for educational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional care.
Perform the exercises as a circuit. Complete one set of each technique in turn, allowing for 30-60 seconds of rest between each. Once you complete one cycle, rest 1-2 minutes, then repeat for a total of 3-5 cycles.
You can perform this routine (or similar) 3-4 times per week.
GOBLET SQUAT (10 reps)
Stand and hold the top of the dumbbell between your hands, so that the bell is vertical. Take a shoulder-width stance with your feet, with your weight on your heels. Now, keeping your butt back, lower yourself down into a deep squat. Try and get below parallel (where the crease of your hip is below your knees), and ensure that your weight remains solidly on your heels.
REVERSE LUNGE (8 reps per side)
Hold the dumbbell by the handle at your shoulder (called the rack position) as you stand with your torso upright. Now, step back with the opposite leg onto the ball of your foot as you lower the knee towards the floor. Do not let the knee actually touch the floor, and ensure that your forward knee is tracked over your toes. Use your front leg to drive back to the standing position while pushing off with the rear foot.
When performing the lunge, don’t think that you have to ‘tightrope’ the move. When you step back, place the rear foot a bit to the side and not directly behind the forward leg. You’ll have better balance and control over the move.
SINGLE DUMBBELL PRESS (10 reps per side)
Hold the dumbbell in the rack position at your shoulder while standing erect. Now, press the bell overhead, and maintain constant tension as you slowly lower it back into the rack position again. Keep your gaze straight ahead – there is no need to look up. The movement should be performed ‘strict’ and under control, meaning with no push from your hips or knees.
Bodyweight exercises such as pushups and pullups can easily be incorporated into any resistance exercise workout, and will give you the benefit of learning how to master your own weight. To perform a proper pushup, get into a plank position with hands about shoulder-width or just outside your shoulders. Your body should be in a straight line, with no arching or sagging. Squeeze your butt and abs and lower yourself to the ground, while keeping your elbows tucked (they should almost brush your ribcage). One your chest touches the floor, push yourself back to the top of the plank.
To scale pushups, start by doing them against a wall or with your hands on an elevated surface (like a bench or chair). Stairs are great for scaling, because you can decrease the elevation as you get stronger.
BENT-OVER DUMBBELL ROW (12 per side)
The row is a great pulling exercise. Step back into a lunge with your forearm resting on your thigh just above your knee of the forward leg. You can turn the rear foot out for better balance. Start by extending the dumbbell to the floor, then pull or row the bell upwards towards your hip. Resist the urge to rotate your hips or torso, rather try and keep your chest in line with the floor. Raise and lower the weight under control.
Greg Carver is the founder of the StrengthBox gym in Toronto, and provides boredom-busting workouts for late Baby Boomers and early Gen-X’ers wordwide. To work with Greg in achieving your own goals, visit his online training site.