5 weight training exercises to make your life easier
Strength training is about more than looking good. Strong muscles make your daily activities easier and help keep your body injury-free.
It can also improve your metabolism and help you stay at a healthy weight.
But if your gym is still closed or you're working out at home to reduce your risk of COVID-19 exposure, your strength training routine may need a reboot.
"Making the transition to weight training at home can be a challenge, but it doesn't take much to get going, and you can get a good workout even with a small amount of equipment," says Wellness Specialist Evan Thoman.
Check with your doctor to see if you're fit enough to train with weights, and then follow this advice to get started.
You don't need a whole set of weights
Demand for weight training equipment has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, hand weights can be hard to find. But one set of weights can be enough to make a difference.
"Don't worry about finding the perfect set of free weights. Get what is available or use what you have now," says Thoman. "It could be a set of five-pound dumbbells or a set of 20-pound dumbbells."
You also can use household objects like cans of food, or gallons of milk. These items require more care as they can be more difficult to hold.
No matter how heavy or light your weights are, you can make variations to your routine to ensure you are getting an effective workout based on your fitness level.
Your body will tell you if you're training at the right level
Weight training exercises are done in sets of three, with a rest in between. People usually start with between 10 and 12 repetitions, or reps, of the same exercise in a set. You can do less or more reps in each set based on your fitness level and goals. Listen to your body to determine how many reps to do.
“When you first start weight training, you'll think to yourself, 'Wow, this is hard, and I feel like my muscles are working,'" says Thoman. "But after a few weeks, you will likely notice that the exercises don't feel as challenging. Over time, your body will adapt, and when that happens, it's time for a change.”
It's important to know when and how to keep moving toward your goal when you hit a weight training plateau.
You can progress with only one set of weights
Let’s say building muscle is your goal, and you started out doing 10 reps for a specific exercise and now find yourself doing 15 reps for the same exercise to stay challenged. In that case, it's time to change one of your weight training variables: intensity, volume or rest time.
For endurance, do higher reps, and take shorter rests between sets. To build muscle, choose a starting weight that is challenging but will allow you to perform 10 to 12 reps while maintaining good form. Take a 90-second rest before you start again.
"Whichever combination you choose, strength training will improve your daily life," says Thoman. "Stronger muscles will help you avoid injuries that might come from bending over to pick something up, carrying groceries in, or picking up your children or grandchildren."
Start with these five exercises for maximum impact
The farmer's walk strengthens your arms, so carrying groceries is easier.
To do the farmer’s walk, hold dumbbells in each hand with a tight grip, allowing your arms to rest along the side of your body. Decide how far you will walk, this could be across your room or yard. Then walk with your back straight and head up. Once reaching the end, turn around and return to the starting point.
If you like to lift your child up in the air, the dumbbell curl and press is for you.
With your feet shoulder-width apart, hold a pair of dumbbells at your sides. With elbows close to your sides and palms facing each other, curl the dumbbells to your shoulders. Press the straight dumbbells overhead. Lower the dumbbells down to your shoulders, and reverse curl back down to the start position.
The dumbbell row can support you as you empty or fill a dishwasher.
Pull the dumbbell upwards, bending your elbow and pulling your upper arm backward. Keep your arm close to the side of your body and continue pulling the dumbbell upwards until you are unable to lift any further without rotating your torso. Lower the dumbbell to your starting position while maintaining a flat back.
Practicing the goblet squat can help when you squat to do garden work or play with children.
With your feet about shoulder-width apart, hold a dumbbell in a vertical position directly in front of the chest. Keep the elbows close to the rib cage and the back straight while lowering into a squat. Continue lowering until thighs are parallel to the floor, then return to the original standing position.
The Romanian deadlift helps with picking things up from the floor.
With your feet shoulder-width apart, a slight bend in your knees, and your back straight, slowly push the hips back as far as possible, keeping the weight in contact with your legs until you feel a stretch in the hamstring. Do not bend the knees or let the lower back round over during the lowering phase.
As with all exercises, stop training and talk to your doctor if you experience pain or other symptoms.