You want stronger muscles and you know that you need them, but lifting weights just isn't you. Before gyms and health clubs, most women conditioned their muscles and strengthened them just by engaging in the drudgery of housework, farming and hauling babies while walking everywhere. You can strengthen your muscles without any expensive equipment and without resorting to washing laundry on a scrub board. Always consult your doctor before you start a new exercise regimen.
Using your muscles is a key element of strengthening them. Your regular exercise routine should target all major muscle groups over the course of a week. Those dreaded situps, crunches and pushups will strengthen your core and abdominal muscles, according to MayoClinic.com. Get stronger calves and thighs with lunges and squats. Strengthen your arms and back with those good ol' jumping jacks and pullups from gym class. The websites of the American Council on Exercise, Mayo Clinic.com and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention provide video instructions for a variety of muscle-strengthening exercises that don't use weights. If you are just getting started, choose exercises recommended for beginners.
The element of resistance helps you increase your muscle strength. Pressing your extended arms against a sturdy wall is a strengthening exercise that uses your own body weight for resistance. Performing exercises in a pool employs resistance. Your muscles work harder because of the weight of the water. Attaching an anchored resistance band to one ankle and doing standing leg lifts strengthens the muscles in your hips. According to More Magazine.com, weak hip muscles are often the cause of ankle and knee pain. Resistance bands also enhance exercises such as biceps curls.
Whether you choose a style that is peaceful and calming or vigorous and hot, yoga not only strengthens your muscles, but also increases your flexibility. Basic yoga poses such as Downward-Facing Dog are useful for full-body strengthening, according to the American Council on Exercise. Use the Locust pose to target your butt, legs, spine, arms and abs. You can even fit yoga exercises into short breaks at your office. Try bed or chair yoga if you’re more flab than fit. The exercises from these yoga styles won’t require as much effort, but you see good results and stronger muscles with regular practice. Taking an introductory class or following a DVD could help you get the most out of yoga for strengthening your muscles.
Try Pilates to strengthen your body’s abdominal and back muscles. Mat exercises mainly use your body weight to condition your muscles. Fitness Magazine suggests single leg circles for strengthening your core, hamstrings and thighs. Try single leg stretches on the mat to target your obliques and abdomen. Add a stability ball to a Pilates routine, such as the Rollup, to increase the benefits of this conditioning exercise. Round out your Pilates muscle-conditioning routines by using resistance bands with your movements.
Remember to warm up before exercising by walking briskly or biking for five to 10 minutes. The Merck Manual recommends letting your muscles recover for 48 hours between strength-training sessions. To accomplish your strengthening goals without muscle injury, target different muscle groups during each workout session. Try alternating between different exercises for each muscle group.
- MayoClinic.com: Strength Training: Get Stronger, Leaner, Healthier
- Baptist Health System: Water Training: More Than Swimming “Upstream” for Fitness
- Shape Magazine: Resistance Bands: The Best Tool for Your Home Gym
- American Council on Exercise: Exercise Library: No Equipment
- Merck Manuals: Starting an Exercise Program
- More Magazine: The Five-Minute Pain Fix
- Shape: Trainers Reveal: The Best Abs Exercises of All Time
- Yoga Journal: Locust Pose
- Mayo Clinic.com: Strength Training How-to Video Collection
- American Council on Exercise: Core Workout
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Physical Activity for Everyone – Videos
- University of Pennsylvania: Penn Current: Penn Police Officer Teaches Chair Yoga Techniques
- University of Indiana: Resistance Band Exercises
Carol Luther has more than 25 years of business, technology, and freelance writing experience. She has held leadership roles in higher education management, international development, adult education, vocational education, and small business support programs