People get really psyched about cardio. Endorphins! Major sweating! Hundreds of calories burned!
And though cardio is a good thing, strength training is just as important for a strong fitness routine. Why? Muscles burn more calories than fat—even when you’re horizontal on the couch watching HBO—which improves metabolism and keeps weight down.
You’ll also avoid the ubiquitous back pain that seems to hit everyone over age 25 by making your core tighter, and you’ll build bone density to help prevent osteoperosis.
“Creating lean muscle mass through strength training helps us do everyday things like pick up, lift up, push and pull with ease,” says Fredina Usher-Weems, Fitness Program Manager with the Lifestyle 180 Program at the Cleveland Clinic. “When you’re strong, you’ll grow older with grace, feeling good and looking good because your body is aligned and your muscles are functioning well.” (Translation: Sculpted shoulders, tight calves and no hunched backs in sight!)
The best news of all is that you don’t need any infomercial equipment du jour to strength train at home. Here are five simple moves that Usher-Weems recommends, none of which involve a home gym or canned-foods-as-weights. Got a wall and a chair? You’re good to go.
Push-Ups. With your hands shoulder-width apart on the floor and your feet flexed at hip distance apart or slightly wider, tighten your abs and create a straight line from your heels to the top of your head. Bend your elbows until your chest is close to the ground and then, you know, push up. Try to make sure your whole body moves together in a straight line—don’t lead with your hips or your shoulders. Do three sets of eight and your arms and chest area will beg you to go strapless.
Easier Form: Place your knees on the ground and keep your body in a straight line from your knees to the top of your head.
Tricep Dips. Sit on the edge of a chair and place your hands just outside your hips, fingers pointing forward. Now, edge your behind off the chair and bend your legs at a 45-degree angle, so both arms and legs support you (extend legs fully for a more intense move). Bend your elbows so that your bottom dips down until your elbows are at 90 degrees, and then push your butt back up to chair height. Make sure your elbows stay close to your body—don’t let them bow out. Those are your triceps you feel working—and you’ll avoid the dreaded upper-arm-wobble (sometimes referred to as the turkey wave) if you keep them tight! Do three sets of 10.
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