Resistance training is a vital part of a health regimen for people of every age and any gender, says Jonathan Jordan, a certified personal trainer based in San Francisco.
“It aids in the development and maintenance of muscle mass, which keeps our bones and joints strong and mobile into old age,” he says. “It adds balance to our bodies that get weakened from hours spent sitting and typing.”
Resistance training also helps:
— Burn calories.
— Manage stress.
— Promote overall body and brain health.
What Is Resistance Training?
Resistance training consists of “anything that resists against your movements so you’re contracting your muscles. You can lift your child up and down, that’s resistance,” says Michele Smallidge, program director of exercise science at the University of New Haven in Connecticut. “This helps you build muscle, bone, strength and endurance.”
There are a number of ways to do resistance training, using:
— Your own body weight.
— Free weights or weightlifting/resistance machines at gyms.
— Bars weighted with buckets filled with sand or water.
Progression is an important component of resistance training. That means progressively increasing the amount of weight you’re lifting or pushing against, or increasing your repetitions.
“You can increase the size and amount that you’re lifting or you can increase the repetitions,” Smallidge says. “For example, suppose you’re curling two 10-pound dumbbells. You can progress from 10 reps to 12, then 15. Once you are able to achieve those 15 reps at the same weight with ease, you can increase the weight amount. So, progressive resistance can mean increasing the number of repetitions or the amount of weight to challenge your muscles.”
Using proper technique will help you achieve best results. Consider consulting a physical trainer to show you the proper techniques.
Resistance Training for Fat Loss and Warding Off Chronic Disease
Research published in February 2021 in the FASEB Journal suggests that resistance exercises may regulate fat cell metabolism at a molecular level. The study, by researchers from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and College of Health Sciences, suggests that resistance exercise is beneficial for fat loss.
Another study, published in Frontiers in Physiology in June 2019, suggests that regular resistance training can be as effective as regular aerobic exercise in helping individuals age 65 and older ward off chronic diseases like mobility disability, cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, and cancer.
In the meta-analysis, researchers found that resistance training for older people:
— Helps with physical mobility.
— Protects the body against Type 2 diabetes.
— Is beneficial for cardiovascular health.
Resistance Training Exercises
There are four main muscle groups that can benefit from the resistance training: those surrounding the back, knees, lower legs and shoulders.
Here are nine resistance exercises useful for those parts of your body:
— Leg adduction.
— Side plank.
— Short arc squats/wall slides.
— Straight leg raises.
— Wall shin raises.
— Heel step downs.
— Arm raises.
— External and internal rotation.
Best Resistance Exercises for Your Back
The key to your back is your front, and the most important way to prevent the misery of low back pain is to concentrate on your core muscles. Your core is the belt of muscles that wraps around your midsection. Place your hands just above your hips and tighten the muscles under your palms. Engaging this natural weight belt is called “bracing.” Once you start bracing these muscles frequently, you will notice them getting tight. If you can do only one core exercise, choose the plank.
It’s important to keep in mind that inactive adults lose 3% to 5% of muscle mass per decade, typically accompanied by a drop in metabolism and the addition of fat, says Dr. Sujan Gogu, attending physician at South Texas Health Clinic Systems. He’s based in Edinburg, Texas. “As a result, back pain tends to occur as we age because our body gets heavier and our core gets weaker. It is very important to continue to strengthen the core muscles (stomach and back) by using resistance training, which helps to keep the spine strong and supported as we age”
Doing exercise to strengthen your back is associated with improvements in:
— Back pain.
Here are three exercises that will help strengthen your back:
1. While lying on your side, brace your abdomen.
2. Bend your top knee, and place your top foot in front of your bottom knee.
3. Raise your lower leg off the floor. Do not let your trunk bend backward.
4. Concentrate on keeping your core engaged, and feel this on the inside of your lower leg. Repeat 10 times, and switch to the other side.
1. Lie down on your stomach and brace the core muscles.
2. Raise your body up on your toes and elbows.
3. Lower your buttocks down until level with your shoulders. Squeeze your navel toward your spine. This is the key to this exercise and really works the core. Make sure your buttocks are not sticking up.
4. Hold for 30 seconds, and increase the hold to two minutes as you improve. Alternatively, you can hold for 10 seconds and repeat 10 times. The plank can be modified so you put weight on your knees instead of your toes.
1. Lie on your side and brace your core muscles.
2. Raise yourself up on the side of one foot and your elbow.
3. Raise your trunk off the floor. Do not let your middle sag. Squeeze your obliques, the muscles that cover the sides of your body.
4. Hold for 30 seconds, and increase the hold to two minutes as you improve. Alternatively, you can hold for 10 seconds and repeat 10 times. The side plank can be modified by supporting your legs with your knees: you can bend both knees so your feet are behind you and your knees are stacked, bottom knee on the floor, hips up.
Best Resistance Exercises for Your Knees
Your knees are biomechanical wonders. The key to your knees are your quadriceps, the four large muscles in the front of your legs.
Knee pain is not normal, meaning you shouldn’t consider it inevitable and unavoidable, says Matt Camargo, regional director for Prosport Physical Therapy and Performance in Laguna Hills, California. “That type of mindset can create predetermined negative habits that will only make matters worse,” he says. “If done correctly I know numerous individuals of all backgrounds who are able to be just as active as they get older, no matter their background. The consistent factor I see is training with specific exercises to help keep the knees durable.”
Here are two exercises that will help strengthen your knees:
Short Arc Squats/Wall Slides
1. Stand with your back up against a wall and your legs shoulder width apart. Place a medicine ball (or two rolled towels) between your knees.
2. Brace your core, and pull your navel toward your spine.
3. While keeping your core engaged, slowly slide your back down the wall until your knees are bent to approximately 60 degrees. This is just shy of parallel to the floor. Limiting the knee bend will decrease the pressure on your knees and still work your quads. Hold in the bent position for 10 seconds, and repeat 10 times. Do two sets.
Straight Leg Raises
1. Lying flat on your back, engage your core.
2. Bend one leg up at the knee, and keep the other leg straight.
3. Still lying flat on your back, tighten the quad muscle of your straight leg, and raise it up off the floor until your thighs are parallel. Hold this position for five seconds, and then lower your leg until it almost touches the floor. Be careful not to let your back sway up off the floor. Repeat 10 times. Do two sets, and switch to the other leg.
Best Resistance Exercises for Your Legs
You may not even notice the muscles in the lower part of your legs — that is, until one of them is irritated or inflamed. You can strengthen your lower legs — and prevent muscle imbalance and shin splints — without any equipment at all. You can do these exercises in your office, at the airport or in the kitchen while cooking.
Here are two exercises that will help strengthen your legs:
Wall Shin Raises
1. Stand with your back and shoulders against the wall with your feet shoulder width apart and about 1 foot in front of the wall.
2. Raise your toes as high off the ground toward your body as you can with your weight on your heels.
3. Slowly lower your toes until they are almost but not quite on the floor, and then flex them up again. Repeat this 10 times. As you get better at this exercise, you can “pulse” quickly from flexing up and extending your ankle down.
Heel Step Downs
1. Stand with your feet together, and take a natural step forward.
2. As your heel strikes the floor in front of you, prevent your foot from flexing down as you transfer your weight forward.
3. Return your foot to the starting position, and repeat on the other side.
4. Perform 10 of these step downs on each side. When you have mastered this with short strides, you can increase your stride length to make the exercise more difficult.
Best Resistance Exercises for Your Shoulders
The shoulder is a very mobile joint and requires the coordination of several small muscle groups to function properly and pain free, says Timothy Allerton, a licensed clinical exercise physiologist and postdoctoral researcher at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “Devoting extra time to working these small muscles will have a big impact,” he says.
You can perform these with exercise bands or light weights. The resistance should be enough that you feel a slight burn in your muscles, but not more. If you’re using so much resistance that you find yourself using your whole back to pull the band or lift the weight, it’s too much. You’ll know you’re using your back and trunk if they move or jerk when you’re lifting your arm.
1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Engage your core. Place one end of an exercise band under your right foot and hold the opposite end with your right hand. If you’re using weights, hold the weight in your right hand. Slowly raise your arm to the side until your arm is level with your shoulder. Hold for five seconds. Slowly lower your arm. Repeat this 10 times. Do two sets.
2. Repeat the arm raises with your arm raised in front of you. Be aware of your back. You should be using only your shoulder to raise the band and not leaning backward to raise your arm. Hold five seconds, and lower slowly. Repeat 10 times. Do two sets.
3. Next, place the band under your left foot and continue to hold the band with your right hand. Raise your arm across your body in a V motion until it’s parallel with your shoulder Hold five seconds, then slowly lower your arm. Repeat 10 times. Do two sets.
4. Repeat these three exercises with the band in your left hand.
External and Internal Rotation
1. For external rotation, place one end of an exercise band around a sturdy object, such as a doorknob, and stand with your left side toward the door. Place the other end of the band in your right hand.
2. Pull the band away from your body with your elbow against your left side. Repeat this 10 times. Do two sets.
3. For internal rotation, place the band in your right hand and pull it across your body with your right elbow against your right side. Repeat this 10 times. Do two sets.
4. Turn your body so that your right side is toward the door, and repeat with the other arm. Keep your elbows close to your sides.
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Update 02/28/22: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.