Strength Exercises

Be sure to record your starting point. This will be your motivation! Do these today and jot down how many and how long you were able to perform them. Repeat for several weeks and track your progress. Remember, starting is the big step and it doesn’t matter how many! So, pick one or two and start… I promise that you’ll be happy you did!

On this Page:

Strength – CORE (abs / abdominals) Muscle Strength

Strength – Lower Body – Leg Muscle Strength

Strength – Upper – Arm Muscle Strength

Strength 


Strength – CORE (abs / abdominals) Muscle Strength

  1. *Plank – there are many variations to this exercise. You can increase time and difficulty as you progress.
  2. *Bridge
  3. Superman
  4. *Side Plank
  5. Crunch
  6. Push Ups
  7. Bird Dog
  8. Elbow to Knee (Air Bike)
  9. Stability Ball Abdominal Crunch
  10. Kneeling Cable Wood Chop

Strength – Lower Body – Leg Muscle Strength

  1. Lying (Prone) Leg Curl
  2. Seated Leg Curl
  3. Standing Leg Curl
  4. Lying Hip Abduction
  5. Bodyweight Squats
  6. Side Squats

Strength – Upper Body – Arm Muscle Strength

  1. Bicep Curl
  2. Tricep Push Down
  3. Seated Cable Row (lower back too)
  4. Tricep Extension

  these exercises are a must for your routine – do 3 times a week.

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Core Strength Exercise - 1. Plank

  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Print

basic-plank-hold1

  • Step 1:  Face-down position on the floor.
  • Step 2:  Support your weight on your toes and your forearms.
  • Step 3:  Bend your arms directly below the shoulder.
  • Step 4:  Keep your body straight and hold this position as long as possible.

What it does: Excellent exercise for strengthening the abdominal muscles.

How to do it: Lying face down, with your body straight, lean on your arms and your toes. There is a normal tendency to lift your buttocks, but be sure to keep your body as flat as a board. Record your progress and increase duration as you progress.

Tip: Do not lift your buttocks – be sure your body is flat as a board as if you were to rotate a picture of yourself – would it look like you are standing straight?

If you haven’t done ab exercises in awhile, start with 5 seconds and work your way up. Don’t get frustrated as experienced ‘plankers’ can only do a few minutes.

Be cautious with this exercise if your have any back pain or develop back pain during the exercise. Always check with your doctor when engaging in a new physical activity.

Note: This is a challenging exercise with many variations. For this ‘classic’ plank when you first begin or increase time, your arms will shake as you try to maintain your body weight. This is perfectly normal and expected as you gain stability and strength.


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Core Strength Exercise – 2. Bridge

  • Step 1: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  • Step 2:  Using your abs, lift your hips and buttocks off the floor.
  • Step 3:  Repeat 5 times.

What it does: Restores the curve in the lower back, which helps restore your neck’s alignment as well. Opens the chest and stretches the diaphragm, improving your ability to breathe deeply.

How to do it: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat, about 12 inches from your hips. To a count of three, reach your arms overhead and lift your hips off the floor. Your head, arms, shoulders, and feet remain grounded. Keep your buttocks soft and core abdominals tight as you hold the stretch for a count of three (3). Now lower your arms and roll your spine, one vertebra at a time, back down to the mat. Repeat 5 times.


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Core Strength Exercise – 3. Superman

  •  Step 1:  Lie flat on your stomach with your arms stretched out in front of you.
  •  Step 2:  Raise your arms and legs off the floor and hold this position for 2 seconds.
  •  Step 3:  Return to the starting position on the floor.
  •  Step 4:  Repeat.

What it does: An excellent exercise to stretch the lower back and strengthen your core muscles.

How to do it: During this exercise your body will look like it’s curving upwards. Stretch your arms and legs and raise them off the floor while your torso remains grounded.

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Core Strength Exercise - 2. Side Plank

  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Print

side-plank

  • Step 1:   Lay on the right side of your body with your legs straight and your forearm  perpendicular to your body in front of you.
  •  Step 2:  Drawing your abs in, slowly raise yourself up so you are balanced on your feet  and  forearms. Your left foot will be resting on top of the right foot.
  •  Step 3:  Hold this position and slowly return back to the starting position.
  •  Step 4:  Repeat on your left side.

What it does: An excellent exercise for strengthening the core abdominal muscles. There are many variations of this exercise.

How to do it:  Lying on your right side with your body straight, you’ll move your right arm to 90° angle facing away from your body. Your left foot will lie on top of the right. Now  lift your torso off the ground. Maintain as long as possible and be sure to record your times.

Tip: As with all planks, perform this exercise until your arms begin to shake a bit. The more you do these, the longer you’ll be able to keep  your torso elevated without shaking.


Core Strength Exercise – 5. Crunch

  • Step 1:  Lie face up with your hands behind your head.
  • Step 2:  Bend your knees.
  • Step 3:  Curl your shoulders toward your stomach.
  • Step 4:  Repeat 10 times.

How to do it:  Begin by lying face up on the floor with knees bent. The movement begins by curling the shoulders towards the pelvis. Your hands can be behind your head, beside the neck or crossed over the chest.

Tip:  Do not use your arms – you can injure yourself by pushing against your head or neck with your hands.

Note: Unlike the sit-up, when doing crunches, your lower back stays on the floor. This is said by scientific literature to eliminate any involvement by the hips, and makes the crunch an effective isolation exercise for the abdominals.

Intermediate: Crunches-2

Lie on a declined bench or hold a weight under your chin, chest or behind your head. Crunch exercises may be performed on an exercise ball.



Core Strength Exercise – 6. Push Ups

­

For a Close Grip Push Up, lay face down on the floor, or a mat, with your feet together curled slightly so you rise on the ball of your feet.

Closed Grip Push Up

  • Step 1:  Place your hands close together so your thumbs and index fingers form a triangle on the floor.
  • Step 2:  Draw your abs in and inhale as you raise your body up till your arms are straight.
  • Step 3:  Keep your head and neck level with your body (don’t look up or down) and don’t allow your back to rise or fall.
  • Step 4:  Exhale out as you lower your body back to the ground.
  • Step 5:  Repeat

Wide Grip Push Up

  • Step 1:  Move your hands out to a position slightly wider than your shoulders.
  • Step 2 – 5:  Same as above.

Notes: A push-up (or press-up) is a basic common calisthenics exercise performed in a prone position by raising and lowering the body using the arms. Push-ups exercise the pectoral muscles, triceps, and anterior deltoids, with secondary benefits to the rest of the deltoids and the midsection.

What it does:  Strengthens the muscles of the chest, arms and shoulders.



Core Strength Exercise – 7. Bird Dog

  • Step 1:  Kneel on the floor and face down (prone) with your hands under shoulder with extended elbows.
  • Step 2:  Point your fingers forward with your palms resting on the floor.
  • Step 3:  Keeping your spine straight without arching up or down and extend your left leg to hip height and right arm to shoulder level.  Your shoulder should be parallel to the floor.
  • Step 4:  Keep your abdominal muscles tucked in.
  • Step 5:  Look straight ahead so that your neck can maintain the alignment to the rest of the body.
  • Step 6:  Hold this position for 4 seconds then come back to the starting position.
  • Step 7:  Repeat on each side 10 times.

Tip:  Don’t stop breathing, keep your extended arm and leg straight – don’t arch up or down.

What it does:  A total body exercise that targets the lower back and to a lesser degree the traps, shoulders, abs, glutes and hamstrings.



Core Strength Exercise – 8. Elbow to Knee (Air Bike)

  • Step 1:  Lie on your back with your lower back pressed against the mat.
  • Step 2:  Place your hands behind your head to support your neck.
  • Step 3:  Lift your upper body off the mat while bringing your knees above your torso and your legs parallel to the floor.
  • Step 4:   Lift your upper body off the mat and alternating elbows and knees, extend your left leg straight out (don’t touch the floor) while bringing your right knee toward your torso (like you are riding a bicycle) – crunch sideways so that  your left elbow extends toward your right knee.
  • Step 5:  Using your abdominals crunch upwards and sideways.
  • Step 6:  Repeat, alternating knees and elbows.

What it does:  The elbow to knee exercise is a calisthenics and Pilates exercise that primarily targets the abs.

How to do it: Lifting your left knee to your right elbow for 8 reps, then your right knee to your left elbow for 8 reps. Your motions will be like you are riding an ‘air bike’. Start with 3 sets and build up until you can do 4 sets of 12 reps on each side.

Tip:  For an easier version, keep one foot on the floor.

Tip:  For a better workout, contract your abdominals, support your neck and work out slowly. The slower you go, the better you work your abs.



Core Strength Exercise – 9. Stability Ball Abdominal Crunch

  • Step 1:  Sit on top of an exercise or stability ball with your feet placed firmly on the floor for support.
  • Step 2:  Center yourself with your lower back in the middle of the ball.
  • Step 3:  Lie back and bring your hands across your chest or put your hands on either side of your head over your ears.
  • Step 4:  Raise your head, chest and shoulders off the ball. Crunching your abs as you sit upright.
  • Step 5:  Pause for a moment and then lower yourself to the starting position.

What it does:  The crunch exercises the abs and this crunch uses a Stability Ball which allows you a better range of movement because it adapts better to your spine and eases pressure on your lower back.

How to do it: Center yourself on an exercise ball, forming a c-shape, lift your torso off the ball toward the ceiling.

Tip:  For best results, use a full range of motion.

Do not jerk your weight up. Focus on utilizing your abs to raise your body up. Move slowly and deliberately. Focus on “crunching” your abs. You are not doing a sit up where you raise your torso off the ground. You want to form a C-shape with your body.

    Variations

  •  You can do this on an exercise mat instead of stability ball.
  •  Trying holding a weight plate in your hands.
  •  Hold your hands out in front of you instead of against your chest. Make sure you keep your arms stationary. Don’t swing your arms to propel your body up as you crunch.

Core Strength Exercise – 10. Kneeling Cable ‘Wood’ Chop

  • Step 1:  Attach a rope to a high pulley of a cable station. Get down on your knees so that   your right side is facing the station.
  • Step 2:  Grab the top of the rope with your right hand and grab the bottom of the rope with your left hand. Both are overhand grips and your torso should be turned toward the cable machine.
  • Step 3:  Begin by pulling rope down past your left hip while simultaneously rotating your torso to the left.
  • Step 4:  Pause, then slowly reverse your movement back to the starting position.

What it does:  The kneeling cable chop is an exercise that targets the obliques (muscles on the side of your abs) and to a lesser degree targets the abs and lower back.

Tip: Twist your entire body with this exercise, but really focus on getting maximal torso rotation and a strong clinch at the end of the movement. To ensure a good mind-muscle connection, keep your abs tense at all times.


Leg Strength Exercise – 1. Lying (Prone) Leg Curl

  • Step 1:  Lie face down on a leg curl machine and place your heels under the roller pad (be sure it’s a few inches below your calves).
  • Step 2:  Grasp the grips with your hands for support and slowly curl your ankles up towards your back and keep your torso flat on the bench.
  • Step 3:  Hold for a moment and then return to starting position.
  • Step 4:  Repeat.

What it does:  Strengthens the hamstrings.


Leg Strength Exercise – 2. Seated Leg Curl

  • Step 1:  Sit upright on a leg press machine – adjust so that the footpad is just above     your heels. Your back should be against the back pad. If the machine you are using had leg pads, your thighs should be under the leg pads.
  • Step 2:  Sit upright with your abs drawn in and your legs in front of you.
  • Step 3:  Grasp the handle bars and raise your legs so that they are fully extended in     front of you and parallel to the floor for your starting position.
  • Step 4:  Exhale and lower your legs, bending at the knees, until your legs form a 90     degree angle.
  • Step 5:  Pause for a moment and then inhale as you raise your legs back to the starting position.

What it does:  Strengthens the hamstrings and similar to the Lying Leg Curls


Leg Strength Exercise – 3. Standing Leg Curl

  • Step 1:  Standing at a leg curl machine adjust it so your knees are against the knee pads and your chest is against the chest pad, resting your forearms against it and the footpad is just above your ankle.
  • Step 2:  Place the back of your right leg underneath the curl pad so your calf is pressing against it and your toes are extended straight.
  • Step 3:  Grasp the handles of the machine for support and draw your abs in.
  • Step 4:  Exhale as you raise your right leg towards your back slowly, as high as possible.
  • Step 5:  Hold for a couple of counts and then inhale as you slowly lower your right leg back to the starting position.
  • Step 6:  Repeat for a complete set.
  • Step 7: Switch sides.

What it does:  Strengthens the hamstrings and glutes (secondary).


Leg Strength Exercise – 4. Lying Hip Abduction

  • Step 1:  Lay on your left side with your body in a straight line.
  • Step 2:  Bend your left knee and keep your right leg straight.
  • Step 3:  Keep your leg straight and lift your top leg as high as you can and then lower it back down.
  • Step 4:  Repeat 12 times, then switch sides and repeat.

What it does:  Strengthens the hip flexors and to a lesser degree the outer thighs.

Variations: After you have mastered your form and are ready to advance from beginner, you can use a resistance band or ankle weights to increase difficulty.


Leg Strength Exercise – 5. Bodyweight Squats

  • Step 1:  Stand straight with your feet shoulder width apart.
  • Step 2:  Bend at the knees, push your hips out and bend down. Picture yourself sitting in a chair.
  • Step 3:  Once your hips are parallel with your knees, return to your starting position.
  • Step 4:  Repeat exercise as desired.

What it does:  Strengthens quads and to a lesser degree the glutes and hamstrings.


Leg Strength Exercise – 6. Side Squats

  • Step 1:  Stand with your feet wide apart, with the foot of the leg you will be leaning on angled out.
  • Step 2:  Bring your lower body to your foot by bending the hip and knee of your lead leg, and keep the opposite leg fairly straight.
  • Step 3:  Return to the starting position and switch legs.

What it does:  Strengthens quads and to a lesser degree hamstrings and hip abductors.


Arm Strength Exercise – 1. Bicep Curl

  • Step 1:  Sit on bench with your feet firmly on the floor and your back straight.
  • Step 2:  Grasp a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing each other and the dumbbells are at your side.
  • Step 3:  Slowly exhale and curl your arms up so your palms are facing up.
  • Step 4:  Raise the weights until your biceps are at shoulder level.
  • Step 5:  Squeeze your biceps at the top and inhale as you slowly lower to the starting position.

Note: If possible use a short-backed bench to help your posture or stand against a wall.

What it does:  Strengthens biceps and to a lesser degree, the forearms.


Arm Strength Exercise – 2. Tricep Push Down

  • Step 1:  Feet shoulder width apart, face a high pulley machine with an attached bar at shoulder level height and grasp it with your palms facing down (pronated). Hold the bar close to your chest (starting position).
  • Step 2:  Keep your body stationary, with a slight bend in your elbows and your wrist steady, exhale as you lower the bar by completely extending your arms downward until the bar touches your thighs.
  • Step 3:  Hold for a moment and then inhale as you slowly return the bar to shoulder level.
  • Step 4:  Repeat for a complete set.

What it does:  Strengthens lats and to a lesser degree triceps.


Arm Strength Exercise – 3. Seated Cable Row

  • Step 1:  Sit at a low pulley machine with your feet resting against the footrests and your knees slightly bent.
  • Step 2:  With your abs drawn in and your back straight lean forward slightly to grasp the handles with an overhand grip (palms face downwards).
  • Step 3:  Slowly bring the pulleys back towards your abs while sitting upright, keep your elbow close to your chest and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  • Step 4:  Hold for a second then slowly return the pulleys to the starting position.
  • Step 5:  Repeat.

What it does: Strengthen the middle back, biceps and lower back.

Tip:  Make sure that your back is straight and do not lock your knees when rowing back.


Arm Strength Exercise – 4. Tricep Extension

  • Step 1: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, your back straight and your abs drawn in.
  • Step 2: Hold a dumbbell with both hands, palms facing upward.
  • Step 3: Carefully raise the dumbbell overhead. This is your starting position.
  • Step 4: Keep your upper arms stationary as you inhale and lower the dumbbell behind your head.
  • Step 5: Exhale as you raise the dumbbell back to the starting position.
  • Step 6: Repeat for a complete set.

What it does:  Strengthens the triceps.

Note:  Keep your elbows close to your head during this exercise.

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