This year is all about achieving your fitness goals. But alas, where to even begin? Well, if you want to boost your supply of lean muscle mass, decrease body fat, and torch calories in a productive manner, strength training reigns supreme, according to the Mayo Clinic. That sounds like a win-win to us, so we’ve put together five of the best strength exercises you can do to completely turn your fitness around.
As you grow older, your lean muscle mass decreases. If you don’t take the necessary action to get into shape and build up that muscle mass, you’ll accumulate more body fat, the Mayo Clinic explains. By performing strength exercises, you can maintain and even boost your muscle mass. In addition to sculpting lean muscle, strength training can also enhance your ability to complete everyday tasks and activities, help you lose weight, and enhance your cognitive skills.
Now that we’ve raved about the benefits of strength exercises, let’s get into the following “must-do” movements Orangetheory‘s director of fitness design, Rachel Vaziralli, put together that’ll totally turn your fitness game around this year and beyond. As for how often you should perform these exercises, that all depends on your goals and fitness level. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend adults perform a minimum of two days of strength training each week.
Vaziralli says some people may be able to work out up to six days per week. She adds, “At Orangetheory, we believe in prioritizing any movement to improve overall health and wellness. With our heart rate-based and coach-led workout proven to deliver results, we recommend members take two to three classes a week to dedicate recovery time between workouts. It’s important to listen to your body to adjust your routine or the intensity as needed.”
Keep reading to learn all about these strength exercises, and next, check out The Best Leg-Strengthening Exercises for Seniors.
Legs: Alternating Dumbbell Goblet Transverse Squats
If you’re familiar with squats, you likely know this exercise is stellar at strengthening your main lower-body muscles. Take this exercise up a notch by performing it in the transverse plane, where you’ll rotate your body “and mimic the multi-dimensional aspects of movement from our everyday lives,” Vaziralli explains.
She adds, “The goblet hold helps you maintain an upright posture, allowing you to execute the proper form, protect the lower back, and engage the muscles of the upper and mid-back. The transverse squat requires more coordination and balance than a traditional squat through tighter core activation and control. Additionally, it requires flexibility so it can help increase hip and overall lower body mobility.”
Legs: Dumbbell Split Stance Deadlifts
Performing classic deadlifts is absolutely effective, but if you want to bring your fitness to the next level, Vaziralli suggests adding the split stance deadlift to your routine.
“Splitting your stance means you must distribute your weight differently, presenting a greater focus on balance and, therefore, core activation,” she says. “The split stance also reduces the load on the lower back and can help increase flexibility demands by requiring more hip and ankle mobility.”
Core: Bodyweight Ipsilateral Dead Bugs With Press
If you’re looking for a variation of the dead bug exercise, Vaziralli says there are plenty. This core-strengthening move activates your superficial and deep ab muscles, along with your hip flexors. “This exercise can improve your spinal stability, coordination, balance, and posture, and enhance athletic performance by increasing power transfer through the core and out to the limbs. This is also a great exercise to reduce the risk of injury to your lower back,” Vaziralli explains.
In this variation of the dead bug, you’ll soak up the benefits of the traditional exercise, along with the additional pressing of your hand against your bent leg, which boosts the amount of tension in your intra-abdominal area. Think of performing a classic dead bug, but press your hand into your leg that’s bent (which, in this variation, will be on the same side), rather than keeping it pointed toward the sky.
“As you reach the same side (ipsilateral) arm and leg in opposite directions, you must work your transverse abdominus (deep abs) more strongly to maintain a neutral spine, creating an extra challenge that is sure to fire up your core and lead to improvements in all your athletic movements,” Vaziralli adds.
Upper-body: Any upper-body moves kneeling on a BOSU ball
Bring your same old upper-body moves to greater heights by completing them while kneeling on a BOSU ball. There’s a wide range of upper-body exercises you can perform on a workout bench or standing upright, such as lateral raises, front raises, bicep curls, and overhead presses. To up the challenge, do them on your BOSU!
According to Vaziralli, “The unstable surface of the BOSU requires you to have greater core activation and recruitment of your posterior chain (back of the body). In this form, you work your abs and glutes more than you would without it! Don’t have a BOSU? Try doing your upper-body exercises standing on one leg for a similar effect.”
Upper-body: Strap Single-arm Reach With Rotation
You’ll need a TRX strap for this last exercise, which features a single-arm row and trunk rotation. The beauty of working with a strap is that you have total control when it comes to how easy or difficult this exercise can be. Move your body up closer to the anchor point to up the challenge, or move further back from the anchor point to make this exercise simpler.
“The strap also gives you instant feedback as it relates to your muscular tension and coordination so you can understand if you are moving smoothly and efficiently,” Vaziralli adds. “The single-arm aspect makes this a progression of the double-arm row as it places more demand on your lats and biceps. Add in the rotation as a benefit to improve trunk mobility and work your core, specifically the obliques!”