weight training exercises
Fitness

5 Weight Training Exercises You Need to Start Now

You should be doing weight training exercises. Period. This post isn’t going to dedicate much of its word count to convincing you. If you want to look better, feel better, and age actively there is not one single exercise activity that will make as much positive difference for you as weight training. There are volumes of research supporting it.

Weight training positively influences muscle more than other exercises can. If you need convincing that muscle is the organ of longevity for both improving metabolism now and avoiding frailty later, listen to this recent podcast.

Weight Training Exercises vs. Resistant Training Exercises

Weight training and resistance training are often used interchangeably in literature. Resistance training can include body weight exercises, bands, tubing, pilates, suspension exercises, as well as machine weights and free weight training exercises. For exercise to change your body in a way that results in improvements in metabolism, bone density, and function, you need to reach a point of overload.

Overload means reaching temporary fatigue. At the end of a set of exercises you would find it difficult to complete another repetition with good form. That is effectively reaching fatigue, or overload, so the muscles respond positively by gaining strength and endurance.

Often however, when you’re contemplating weight training exercises in midlife and after you have to find your sweet spot between risk and reward. The five weight training exercises in this post lie in the sweet spot. They are single leg, or unilateral exercises. Each can be done with body weight alone or you can add additional weight.

One of the major benefits of unilateral training is you don’t have to compromise the spine, or other joints.

To age well you must maintain strength and muscle mass. You want to maintain strong bones. Those goals require strength training. If you’re exercising with arthritis or advanced osteoporosis, or degeneration you want to balance your need for adequate load for strength with minimal stress to the spine.

That’s particularly important with lower body exercises where you’re doing weight with a bar on the shoulders or on certain machines that increase pressure to the spine. In order to reach fatigue in exercises like the squat or leg press it requires a fairly heavy load. When you flip from bilateral (two leg) to a unilateral weight training exercises you can still achieve fatigue and safe overload without adding undue stress to the spine and other joints.

Another major benefit of single-leg exercise is that it helps strengthen muscles that aren’t usually activated. Muscles around your pelvis respond differently when you have two feet operating together. When you train one leg at a time you’re exercising stabilizing muscles that can reduce your chance of injury by improving balance and your ability to right yourself if you bobble.

Add these five exercises to your routine once or twice a week. Begin with body weight alone and gradually add additional resistance (or time as in the last two yoga poses). Remember your goal is fatigue. Don’t set an arbitrary number of repetitions and stop. When you can easily do 15-20 repetitions with the weight training exercises (the first three), then add some external weight as demonstrated.

You do want to include some bilateral (two-legged) exercises done with heavier weight to benefit body composition and bone density. These five weight training exercises can be a good start to your foray into weight training or provide additional benefits to your existing program.

Single Leg Deadlift

Stand with one leg forward and your opposite hand holding a weight. Place weight on your heel. Gradually hinge at the hip with a slightly bent knee lowering toward the floor or a step.

Where you should feel this: hamstrings (back of the thigh) and glutes

Where you should not feel this: lower back

Single Leg Lunge with Elevated Rear Leg

Stand with one leg forward and your back leg elevated on a bench, chair, or ottoman.

Make sure your weight is on your front heel. Lower and lift, pressing the heel firmly into the ground.

Where you should feel this: glutes

Where you should not feel this: front knee (keep the weight on the heel)

Single Leg Bridge

Lying on the floor, cross one ankle over the other knee. Press through the weight-bearing heel to raise the hips up. Repeat to fatigue without fully setting down between. You can place flat weight plates or tubing across your hips for external resistance.

Where you should feel this: glutes

Where you should not feel this: lower back

Half Moon (yoga pose)

Stand with your back close to a wall for support if you’re new to this pose. Place a prop on the floor in front of you so you don’t have to put your hand on the floor. Slowly lift your rear leg to parallel to the floor while straightening your front leg. Keep your weight spread evenly over the front foot with slightly more emphasis on the heel. Hold for as long as you can.

Tree Pose (yoga pose)

Stand tall barefoot or with shoes on. (Barefoot will be a greater balance challenge). Bring one foot up and place the sole of your foot against the standing leg as high up on the leg as your strength and mobility allows. You can use your hand to bring the leg up or simple bring one leg to the other. Pressing one leg firmly into the ground/floor press the other leg firmly into that grounded leg. Hold as long as you can.

Use a support for any of these exercises as needed. As your strength and stability increases so too will your muscle tone and definition.

Remember – check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program. 

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