Less than 25 percent of Americans over the age of 45 engage in strength-training exercises, which are actually among the most important exercises to stay fit and healthy. It’s a matter of fact that your muscle strength decreases with age… unless you do something to stop it.
That “something” is strength training. Without it, by the time you’re in your 70s, your muscle strength and tone will have declined by roughly 25 percent from what you had in your mid-30s. You’ll lose up to 50 percent once you approach your 90s.
Yet, gaining muscle strength is only one benefit of strength training. This form of exercise also helps prevent osteoporosis, improves your range of motion, and ability to perform functional (day-to-day) movements and even, when done properly, can act as a form of aerobic exercise and even help you lose weight.
The more muscle mass you have, the higher your resting metabolic rate. Unlike traditional cardio, strength training causes you to continue burning more calories for up to 72 hours after the exercise is over through a process known as afterburn.
Many are also not aware that strength training has been shown to slow cellular aging, helping you to live a longer, healthier life. It also increased BDNF brain derived neurotropic factor that helps you remember and learn better.
Are You Missing Out on These 7 Phenomenal Strength Exercises?
If you’re new to strength training, these exercises can form the basis of your muscle-building routine. If you’re an avid strength trainer already, try these moves to reach higher levels of fitness and work your muscles in a different way.
1. Goblet Squat
This is a squat done while holding a weight in front of you (like a goblet), which adds more of a workout for your core and legs.
“How to: Hold a dumbbell with both hands underneath the ‘bell’ at chest level, and set your feet shoulder-width apart with your toes pointing slightly outwards. Push your butt back like you’re sitting in a chair and descend until your elbows reach the inside of your knees.
Keeping your heels flat, pressing onto the floor, pause at the bottom of the squat, and return to a full standing position. If your heels rise push your hips further back and work on partial ranges of motion until mobility and form improve. Repeat for four sets of 8-10 reps.”
2. Pallof Press
This “anti-rotation” movement is challenging because you must resist rotation, working your obliques, abs, lower back, glutes, and more.
“How to: Stand perpendicular to a cable column with the column’s arm set around shoulder height. Grab the handle with both hands and pull it in to the chest, maintaining tension on the cable. Feet should be shoulder-width apart, and the feet, knees, hips and shoulders all remain square and facing straight ahead throughout movement.
Holding the chest high, squeeze through the stomach and press the handle away from the body, extending the arms straight while resisting any twisting or rotation. It’s at this point the resistance will be highest. Continue to engage your core, and ensure you remain square and straight and resist the rotational force. Bring arms back in to the chest and repeat for three sets of 10 reps per side.”
3. Dumbbell Row
The dumbbell row helps to develop a strong back, arms and core. Plus, because it works your lats, traps, and rhomboids, it supports proper posture by pulling your shoulders back and helping to stabilize your spine.
“How to: Grab a dumbbell (20 pounds is plenty for most to start) and find a bench. Start with your left hand on the bench with left arm extended, while your right arm holds the dumbbell and right foot is on the ground. Retract your shoulders, brace your abs, and pull the weight up on the side of your body until the elbow passes the side of the body. Lower under control and repeat for three sets of 6-8 reps on each side.”
Push-ups are a deceptively simple functional movement that works your upper-body muscles while engaging your core and allowing you to use the full range of motion in your shoulder blades.
“How to: Start on your knees facing the floor with your hands at shoulder-width, planted directly under the shoulders. Assume a plank position by straightening your legs, supporting your weight with hands and feet. Squeeze your backside to keep your trunk engaged and lower your body slowly to the ground. The elbows should be slightly tucked — like arrows, rather than flared like the letter ‘T’. Descend until your chest is just above the ground and return to the starting position by fully extending your arms, and repeat.
Note: If you can’t do five push-ups with good form, elevate your hands on a bench or chair to begin building up your strength. If push-ups are easy, try elevating your feet on a chair on adding a weight vest. Make sure you’re able to perform three sets of 12 push-ups with your bodyweight before adding a vest or elevating your feet.”
5. Split Squat (Stationary Lunge)
This is important because it involves single-leg movements that help minimize training imbalances. Split squats will help to build lower-body strength while improving balance, flexibility, and stability in your hips.
“How to: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Next, take a step forward with your right foot, and a large step backwards with your left foot — this is your starting position. Keep the front heel flat and descend into a lunge, bringing your back knee towards the floor. Stop just short of the knee touching the ground on the back leg with the front heel still flat on the ground. Pause for one second and return to standing. Perform 6-8 reps on your right leg, then 6-8 reps on your left leg, and repeat for three sets.”
6. Lateral Squat
This is a combination of a lateral lunge and a squat, useful for stretching your groin and inner thighs while also working out your hips, thighs, and trunk.
“How to: Stand tall with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart, heels flat on the ground and toes pointed forward. Initiate the movement by pushing your hips backwards, bending your left leg, and leaning to your left with your right foot angled out slightly. The left knee should be bent, left heel flat on the floor, and right leg extended with your weight over the left side of your body. This is one rep. Return to a standing position and descend doing the same movement on your right side to even things out. Perform six reps per leg for three sets.”
7. Hip Extension (Glute Bridges/Hip Thrusts)
This exercise helps to train your glutes, which are often underutilized if you sit for long periods each day.
“How to: Position the back of your shoulders across a stable bench, feet planted firmly on the ground, about six inches away from your butt (a). Squeezing the glutes, push through your heels to rise up into a bridge position with the hips fully extended. The shoulders down to the knees should be in line, with the knees bent at 90 degrees. Hold the position at the top, glutes, core and hamstrings engaged (b). Lower the hips down and repeat for three sets of eight reps (c). Beginners can continue with just bodyweight, whereas more advanced lifters can progress to rolling a barbell over the top of the hips for added difficulty.”