Despite you may have heard, strength training is not only for those who want to build muscle, and you do not need a lot of fancy gym equipment to do it. Grab an exercise ball and dumbbells, and you're ready for a tough fat-burning, muscle-building workout. According to MayoClinic.com, weight training not only builds lean muscle, it boosts your metabolism, burns fat and prevents injuries. Check out how these tools together can provide a high-intensity, calorie blasting session.
Lower Body Exercises
Your full-body workout should have at least one lower body push exercise that works the quadriceps and one lower body pull that works the hamstrings, according to Marianne Kane, personal trainer and owner of MyoMyTV Fitness Workouts. Perform exercise ball wall squats as your push exercise, holding dumbbells to increase the difficulty, or do static lunges with your back foot resting on the ball. Ditch the leg curl machine and try ball leg curls for your pull exercise. These are done lying on your back with your heels on the ball, then mimicking the same leg movement you would do on a seated, lying or standing hamstring curl machine. (See References 2 & 3)
Upper Body Exercises
Use the ball to replace a weights bench for dumbbell presses. You can do your dumbbell presses lying on the ball to work your chest or seated to hit your triceps. To train your back go for dumbbell rows; but where you'd usually lean on a bench or dumbbell rack for support, use the ball. Swapping a weight bench for the exercise ball makes your upper body exercises more unstable, challenging your stabilizing (core) muscles more. You will likely have to use a little less weight at the start.
Exercise balls were originally promoted by trainer Paul Chek as a way of increasing core strength and abdominal activation. While any exercise performed on the ball will work your core, you can target it specifically, too. The simplest way to use the ball for core work is to perform your regular sit ups and crunches on it. You can implement dumbbells, too, by trying the serratus crunch, which is the same as a regular ball crunch, but with two light dumbbells held over head. Side ball crunches holding a dumbbell in one hand will hit the oblique muscles -- the muscles at the side of your core. (See Reference 4)
Full-body workouts are the most effective way to burn calories and maximize fat-burning, but you do need to allow enough rest time between sessions, writes Rachel Cosgrove, author of "The Female Body Breakthrough." Perform your workouts three times a week, leaving at least one full day of rest between each session. Start with three sets of 10 reps on each exercise and aim to add extra reps every workout. Once you can do three sets of 15, increase the weight, drop the reps back down to 10 per set and work your way back up again. Ask a trainer at the gym to assist you if you are unsure of any exercise techniques. (See Reference 5)
- Mayo Clinic: Strength Training: Get Stronger, Leaner, Healthier
- Nia Shanks: Different Training Styles & All Produce Incredible Results
- ACE Fitness: Stability Ball Wall Squats
- "How to Eat, Move and Be Healthy": Paul Chek: December 2004
- Rachel Cosgrove: Strength Training 101 - Getting Started
- Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images