The Gist of It
- Strength training can help increase muscle strength and endurance while also strengthening bones and burning fat.
- Body weight and free weight exercises are enough for a well-rounded strength training routine.
- Something is always better than nothing. Even if you can’t do a lot, start by doing a little and you’ll get there.
I was visiting a museum in New York, USA, with exhibits of 19th century farming and logging tools. All of them relied on human muscle power.
Today, speaking for myself, I spend most of the day, every work day, sitting. My tools are a laptop, phone, pens, notepad, and papers. These tools do not require muscle strength and endurance to operate. It is easy to get fat, lose cardiovascular endurance, and watch muscle soften and shrink.
Without regular physical exertion, this will happen even while eating a reasonable diet. If you are eating large portions of salt, fat, and sugar laden foods, the process will be hastened.
Strength training helps increase muscular strength and endurance, while also strengthening bones and tendons in the process, and burning fat. Strength training can help with virtually any athletic endeavor, improving power, enhancing coordination, and preventing injury to muscles and joints.
Warning: Before beginning a fitness training program, see a physician to get clearance that you will be able to exercise safely. If you are over 40, do not train regularly, or have a pre-existing medical condition, or recent injury, this is especially important.
The Moves of Strength Training using Body Weight
Being able to move your own body weight with fluidity and ease is a hallmark of strength. You can strengthen every major muscle group by using the following movements:
Place your hands on your head or on your hips, and walk as you lunge- up or down a hill is a great way to build strength and muscle endurance.
No cheating- touch your chest to the ground, and keep your eyes straight ahead. This will keep your back, neck and shoulders aligned. Do as many as you can, then do not stop- put your knees on the ground and push out more. You can also place your arms wider apart, to emphasize your anterior deltoids, or closer together for more emphasis on your triceps.
Find a low tree branch that will hold your weight, and pull- overhead, or underhand, with your hands at various widths- the wider the width, the harder it will be. People with long arms tend to have an advantage at pulling instead of pushing movements. Begin and end with a full hang, ankles crossed. If pull-ups are too hard at your current level of fitness, grab the branch and hold on as long as you can. This will give you an awesome pump in your forearms, and help build grip strength to assist with eventually doing pull-ups. Work your way up to a hand-to-hand underhand grip for maximum leverage advantage.
Video: Lunges, Pushups, Pullups
These are also known as air squats, in that you are only using your legs to lift your upper body weight. For a greater challenge, find a big rock and hug it to your chest as you squat. Lunges can also be done carrying a rock.
Video: How to do a proper air squat
Find a waist high railing or wall with a 45-degree bend, place your hands on the rail or wall, cross your ankles, and push until your arms are straight. Lower yourself, without letting your feet touch the ground, and repeat.
Go slow. Rise up on your toes for a three count, and down for three count. Point your feet outward at 45 degrees for more emphasis on the sides of your calves – the soleus muscles.
Hold for as long as possible, or 10 seconds at time if you are a beginner, for as many sets as possible.
A great way to build cardio fitness as well as strength in legs and core.
Video: Planks & Mountain Climbers
The most dreaded of body weight moves- but the best- start with a squat thrust if you are a beginner, or stand from the pushup position instead of jumping up.
Video: How to do a Burpee
Strength training is one of the best things you can do for your body, whether you are manual laborer, or an office worker, or recreational or professional athlete. Get started, and make fitness a daily habit.
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