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You think muscle-building and strength is mainly a topic for bodybuilders (and bodybuilder aspirants who make a show of grunting as they lift weights) right? Wrong. Building strength and building muscle across your body has many benefits for your health.
According to Daphne Mantzanidis, personal trainer and an exercise science graduate from Deakin University, strength training can help you keep burning calories after your workout, protects bone health, makes you stronger and fitter overall, and can boost energy levels while helping strengthen your body against disease. All fantastic benefits beyond the aesthetic appeal of a tight, toned physique.
Daphne has split this workout into two parts; upper body and lower body strength exercises. The only equipment you need for this workout is an exercise band, or if you don’t have one of those a bath towel will do in a pinch.
So, get those workout clothes on, and let’s get strong!
*These strength based exercises can be performed separately between upper and lower body exercises or combined in one session. Daphne recommends performing 3 sets with 8-12 repetitions for each exercise, and with a rest of 60 – 90 seconds between each set. This rest period can be reduced as you become stronger!
The bent over band row is an exercise that targets a variety of upper back muscles. Using a band is great for beginners as it reduces the risk of injury, it is also portable and provides constant tension throughout the movement. Stronger bands can also be used as strength progresses.
Form: Step on the band feet shoulder width apart, grab the band palms facing inwards. Bend through the hips and have soft bend in the knees for the correct position. Pull the band towards your belly button with the elbows tucked in close sweeping your ribs as you pull.
The banded tricep extension is a great exercise to isolate the tricep muscle. Again as we are using a band it is great for beginners as it reduces the risk of injury, it is also portable and provides constant tension throughout the movement.
Form: Daphne says to keep your elbow forward and touching your ear. Ensure you extend all the way up, and to start with palm facing inwards and rotate forward as the elbow extends.
This is a great exercise to target the often forgotten shoulder muscles, and particularly the lateral deltoid and trapezius muscles.The band helps mitigate against injuries in this exercise, as compared to heavier weights. The constant tension the band provides throughout the movement gives you an exhausting exercise.
Form: Make sure you pull your elbows up towards your ears to create a V shape. Then pull your band close to the body and make sure you move in a controlled movement for maximum efficiency.
Can’t do a full pushup? This is a great introductory exercise into one. Due to the incline nature of the exercise there is less load which makes it suitable for a beginner who can’t perform a full pushup. It can be performed anywhere with a slight ledge and is a great way to target the chest muscles (Pectoralis).
Form: Make sure to maintain a neutral spine where your hands are slightly in front of the line of the shoulders. Daphne says to ensure you bring your chest all the way down to the ledge. If this is still a bit difficult, perform these on your knees. If it’s a bit too easy, then perform them on your toes to make it more difficult!
Compound exercises work more than one muscle group at once which means you burn more energy, and lunges are the classic example of that. Working your calf, abs, back, glute and hip muscles, lunges are a classic compound exercise that work to engage multiple large and small muscle groups in the legs. They can be performed with just body weight or added resistance such as dumbbells. All you need to do these is a little space.
Form: Daphne says to ensure that your front knee stays behind your leading toe. You should also maintain an even weight distribution between both legs, and strive to keep a good and upright posture.
The single leg hip bridge is a great exercise to target the hamstrings and glutes. It can be used for strength, hypertrophy (increasing size) or correcting anterior hip tilts. It can also be performed with no weight or with added resistance such as a dumbbell.
Form: Make sure that the angle between shin to knee and ankle is 90 degrees at full hip extension. Daphne says that one foot should stay in the air the whole time, and your weight should drive up through the heel of the working foot.
A critical exercise to overall performance and health and another classic lower body compound, squats engage a variety of small and large muscles in the legs and core. Squats can be performed with just your body weight and with added resistance such as a barbell.
Form: Daphne says to ensure your feet are shoulder width apart, while your toes should rotate slightly outwards. When performing the exercise your knees need to stay behind your toes the whole time. To get the most out of your squatting you need to maintain good posture while driving the exercise through your heels.
Like the lunge that it derives from, side lunges are another great exercise to target your glutes, alongside a number of other muscles in the legs. A real space saver, you can add to the difficulty by adding weights.
Form: Ensure your knee stays behind the toe on your bent leg. Daphne says that your stabilising leg should stay straight, and then you can drive explosively up through the heel when stepping back to the centre.
Need some new workout threads that help you look your best, keep you cool while you’re sweating, and help those in need? Check out Cotton On and Deakin University’s active wear range. Proceeds go to The Unite Project, which helps at-risk and homeless youth.
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