Want to introduce strength training into your world to fight age-related muscle and strength loss? You know that it helps in developing lifelong independence, but you are hesitant . . . simply because getting started seems too confusing. You may be questioning which exercises you should be doing and which muscle groups you should be working. Consider this a brief lesson in Strength Training 101. And if you need motivation to stay on track, remind yourself of the many benefits of these exercises: stronger bones, muscle endurance, weight management, improved posture and balance, better flexibility and coordination. And then, of course, there's the wow factor: You just feel so darn good!
Optimally, strength training exercises for the major muscle groups should be performed at least twice a week. To prevent muscle imbalance, it's best to select at least one exercise for each muscle group. Here are some of the muscle groups you will be strengthening and an example of one exercise for each.
Quadriceps: Often called the "quads," the primary function of these four large muscles in the front of the thighs is to bend and straighten the knee. The quads are involved in nearly every leg movement. Exercise: squats.
Hamstrings: The "hams" consist of three main muscles in the back of the thighs and are responsible for bending your knees. They work to stabilize hips and keep your spine in alignment. Exercise: walking.
Back: The back is made up of three major muscle groups. The latissimus dorsi, located on each side of your back, help to extend, rotate and pull your arms toward your body. The lower back, erector spinae, has three muscles that extend from the neck to your bottom and straighten and rotate the back. The rhomboids, or "posture" muscles, are between the shoulder blades. Exercise: bent rows.
Chest: These muscles include the pectoralis major and minor, often referred to as the "pecs." They are responsible for movement of the shoulder joint. Exercise: pushups.
Shoulders: The deltoid muscles, located on the upper arm and top of the shoulder, along with the rotator cuff muscles, help move your arms. Exercise: lateral raise.
Bicep: This front upper arm muscle extends from shoulder to elbow, with the primary function being to bend your elbow. The bicep acts as an assistant to the shoulder muscles when you raise your arm. Exercise: bicep arm curl.
Tricep: Another upper arm muscle, but in the back. It is primarily responsible for straightening the arm. Exercise: pushups.
Abs: Abdominals are only a small part of the core. Developing a strong core requires a variety of exercises throughout the torso. Exercise: bicycle on floor.
Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. Sally Anderson is happy to hear from readers but can't respond to individual inquiries. Contact her at email@example.com.