Welcome to Week 3 of the Shape-Up Challenge! This week, we’re going to discuss the benefits of resistance exercise, plus give you some easy exercises you can do on your own to start looking and feeling better.According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), resistance training builds healthy bones and muscles and is essential to a well-rounded physical activity program. They also note that both men and women can achieve a more sculpted and toned appearance through resistance training.
You may hear ‘resistance exercise’ and worry that you’ll be lifting heavy weights or building big muscles. If you’re a female, this may not be something you’re interested in. Rest assured, resistance training doesn’t have to mean either of these. The ACSM states that, for beginners who strength train, almost any stimulation of the muscles will lead to progress. This means that even very little resistance will provide benefits. The ACSM also notes that, for newbies, just 2 to 3 days per week, with a rest day in-between, is all that’s needed. Of course, like just about everything associated with exercise, proper form is essential for progress and injury prevention.
Okay, so are you ready to start? Here are some beginner resistance training exercises from Susan Barrett, MPT, a physical therapist in Fairfax, VA.
Squats/Mini-Squats: For beginners, use a chair to do these. Simply sit on the chair with your feet flat in front of you, about as far apart at the width of your hips. Stand up from the chair, and then sit back down again. You don’t need to go so deep that you actually sit back in the chair; rather, simply tap the chair and then stand up again. You can also try wall squats—again, have your feet flat in front of you in a wider stance, and slide your back up and down a wall. Make sure your knees are in line with your ankles during the exercise. Start with 15 in a row, trying to work up to three sets of 15.
Wall Push-Ups: Standing up, put your hands flat on a wall, wider than the width of your shoulders, with your arms straight (as though you were about to do a push-up on the floor). Have your feet evenly spaced on the floor, about a hip width apart. Slowly bend your arms and then straighten. Start with one set of 15, working up to three sets of 15.
Ab Crunches: Laying flat on your back, place your lower legs on a chair or an exercise ball with your knees and hips each bent at a 90-degree angle. Place your hands either behind your head or crossed across your chest, and slowly lift your head and shoulders off the ground, using your core (abdominal muscles) to lift yourself. Lower back to the ground. Start with 15 and progress to three sets of 15. (Note: If you can’t do ab crunches, here’s an alternative: Lie on the floor with your knees bent and lift one knee up toward your chest. Resist at top with your own hand – knee is pushing up and hand is pushing down – and hold for a count of 10, then switch legs.)Don’t forget to warm up and cool down before and after doing resistance training as well. And, of course, always get clearance from your physician before attempting any of these exercises, or before starting or modifying any exercise program.
See Week 1 of the Shape-Up Challenge: Goal-Setting
See Week 2 of the Shape-Up Challenge: Fuel Up, Warm Up, Cool Down.
Find a center near you to schedule a consultation with a CMWL doctor.