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How to Strength Train Anywhere

Strength training is associated with muscle heads, but it’s smart for everyone. We know that muscle tissue burns calories, so strength training not only makes you stronger and look better, it helps you avoid weight gain when you’re not exercising.

In general:

  • Do total-body workouts 3 days a week, resting one day between workout days.
  • Do abs exercises every workout, or every day.
  • Exercise muscle groups in rotation (“circuits”) so the muscles have time to recover. This allows you to do more exercises overall in less time.

A sample routine you can do anywhere without equipment:

  1. Bulgarian Split Squat, 12-15 repetitions with each leg
  2. Rest for 60 seconds
  3. Inverted Shoulder Press, 8-10 repetitions
  4. Rest for 60 seconds
  5. Repeat the above 2 more times
  6. Single-Leg Deadlift, 5-6 repetitions with each leg
  7. Rest for 60 seconds
  8. T Pushup, 10-15 repetitions
  9. Rest for 60 seconds
  10. Repeat the above 2 more times
  11. Plank, hold for 60 seconds
  12. Rest for 60 seconds
  13. Repeat the above

Too easy? Make it harder:

  • Raise your hands above your head — so your arms are straight and in line with your body — during a lunge, squat, crunch, or situp. If that’s too hard, split the distance by placing your hands behind your head.
  • Move the floor farther away. For many body-weight exercises — lunges, pushups, situps — your range of motion ends at the floor. The solution: Try placing your front or back foot on a step when doing lunges; position your hands on books or your feet on a chair when doing pushups; and place a rolled-up towel under the arch in your lower back when doing situps.
  • Use the 4-second pause in any exercise. And give yourself an extra challenge by adding an explosive component, forcefully pushing your body off the floor — into the air as high as you can — during a pushup, lunge, or squat.
  • Simply twist your torso to the right or left in exercises such as the lunge, situp, and pushup. You can also rotate your hips during movements such as the reverse crunch.
  • Hold one foot in the air during virtually any exercise, including pushups, squats, and deadlifts. You can also do pushups on your fingertips or your fists.

Aside: Why, at age 37, am I just learning all this now? I realize the physical education classes in American schools are mostly intended to give the students exercise, but don’t necessarily teach them how to continue that exercise themselves beyond school. I’d like to see gym teachers teach kids a basic 15 minute routine they could continue their entire lives.

  1. I appreciate your reformatting of the steps. The Men’s health article makes it unnecessarily difficult to follow.

  2. You’re learning this now because gym is taught by …. gym teachers.

    (And because “best practice” has changed over the years. And, as you note, MiddleAgeMan has a different context for exercise (e.g. time constraints), and therefore needs a different *design*.)

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