Strength Training at Home
Strength training improves muscle strength, power, endurance, and size. It also does
Reduces your body fat
Increases your body metabolism so you burn more calories each day
Enhances your balance and stability
Keeps your bones strong
Reduces the symptoms of chronic conditions like arthritis, diabetes, or osteoporosis
Getting to the gym for a weight workout isn’t always easy. That’s why it pays to have
weights at home as a backup or as a substitute.
Strength training is also known as resistance training. It’s different from weightlifting
or powerlifting. These are sports in which people compete to lift the heaviest weights.
In resistance or strength training, you use weights or resistance bands to force your
muscles to work against gravity. Over time, this builds and strengthens muscle mass
by increasing the size of your muscle cells. During the first 4 weeks of a strength-training
program, the increase in your strength is primarily from changes in the neurological
system that controls your muscle contraction. The nervous system increases the number
of muscle fibers used for training and coordinates their activity, but muscle fibers
remain the same size. After about 4 weeks, changes take place in the structure of your
muscle fibers, so they enlarge and your muscles become larger.
Talk with your healthcare provider before starting a strength-training program. Once
you have your healthcare provider’s OK, talk with a qualified personal trainer to
set up a program. If your goal is to increase your strength, then you should use progressively
heavier weights in your training sessions. If your goal is to improve your muscle
endurance, then you should use lighter weights with more repetitions in your training
Why it’s important
Strength training is an important part of a fitness routine because your muscles must
be strong enough for daily activities. This includes things like carrying groceries
or gardening. It also includes recreational and sports activities like walking or
carrying golf clubs. As you age, you lose muscle mass and strength. Strength training
helps delay and reduce this loss of muscle.
Here are some tips for strength training:
Your strength-training program should work all the major muscle groups at least twice
Warm up your muscles for 5 to 10 minutes before beginning your weight workout with
gentle exercises. Follow your workout with a cool down of 5 to 10 minutes and gentle
stretching. There should be at least 1 day of rest between your sessions to allow
your muscles to grow and heal.
Use minimal weight the first week. Starting out with weights that are too heavy can
cause injuries. Many women start with 5-pound dumbbells and men with 10 to 15 pounds.
But you may need to start out using as little as 1 or 2 pounds.
When doing a strength exercise, do 8 to 15 repetitions in a row. Rest for 1 minute.
Then do another set of 8 to 15 repetitions in a row of the same exercise.
Gradually add a challenging amount of weight in order to benefit from strength exercises.
If you don’t challenge your muscles, you won’t benefit from strength exercises.
If you’ve had joint repair or replacement surgery, check with your surgeon before
doing lower-body exercises.
Avoid jerking or throwing weights into position. That can cause injuries. Use smooth,
Avoid locking your joints in your arms and legs into a tightly straightened position.
Breathe out as you lift or push, and breathe in as you relax. For example, if you
are doing leg lifts, breathe out as you lift your leg and breathe in as you lower
it. This may not feel natural at first, and you probably will have to think about
it as you are doing it for some time.
Muscle soreness lasting up to a few days and slight fatigue are normal after muscle-building
exercises. Exhaustion, sore joints, and unpleasant muscle pulling aren’t. These last
three symptoms mean you are overdoing it.
None of the exercises you do should cause pain. The range within which you move your
arms and legs should never hurt.
The following exercises are a 30-minute home weight-training workout. When you start,
do 2 sets of 8 repetitions of each exercise before repeating on the other side.
Immediately stop any exercise with the dumbbells that causes you pain, especially
in the shoulder or back. Check with your healthcare provider if this happens.
30-minute home weight-training workout
Dumbbell chest press
Lie on an exercise ball with dumbbells resting on each thigh. Lift dumbbells to your
shoulders with your palms facing forward. With your elbows to the sides, press dumbbells
up until your arms are fully extended. Lower dumbbells and repeat.
Lie face down on the ball with dumbbell in hand and straighten your arm. Then pull
the dumbbell toward your upper chest with your elbow leading.
Place the ball between the wall and the lower part of your back. In each hand, hold
a dumbbell with your arms by your sides. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart
and slowly squat like you’re about to sit in a chair, allowing your back to follow
the roll of the ball. Stop when your thighs become parallel to the floor. Then push
up to return to a standing position.
Lie on the floor face up. Place your calves on the ball, about 8 inches apart. Keep
your arms on the floor, away from your body. Tilting your pelvis forward, raise your
hips as high as possible and contract your buttocks when you reach the top. Lower
your buttocks and relax.
Dumbbell shoulder/overhead press
Sit on the ball or stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding dumbbells at
shoulder height. Grasp dumbbells with your palms facing forward. Slowly push them
toward the ceiling, stopping before your elbows lock. Then slowly lower them to shoulder
Dumbbell arm curls
Stand with your back straight, dumbbells hanging by your sides. With your palms facing
upward, curl both dumbbells at the same time toward your shoulders. Then slowly lower
the weight, turning your palms so they’re facing each other at the bottom of the exercise.
As you get stronger, the exercises may get easier. To keep moving toward your goal:
Gradually increase the amount of weight you use to build strength.
When you are able to lift a weight between 8 to 15 times, you can increase the amount
of weight you use at your next session.
Here is an example of how to progress gradually. Start out with a weight that you
can lift only 8 times. Keep using that weight until you become strong enough to lift
it 12 to 15 times. Add more weight so that, again, you can lift it only 8 times. Use
this weight until you can lift it 12 to 15 times, then add more weight. Keep repeating.