As the holiday season ramps up, most of us find that our evenings and weekends are even more full than usual and that makes it harder than ever to do our normal exercise. The weather can be another obstacle, so if walking is your mainstay during nice weather you might need an alternate plan to get you through the winter.
One of my favorite ways to get in a good workout in limited space and with no equipment is to do some classic strength training moves using my own body weight for resistance.
Here are three that make a good start in building core and lower body strength. Start with 8 to10 repetitions of each, resting in between as needed. As always, make sure there are no medical reasons why you should not try something new before doing so.
It’s easiest to learn this motion well using a chair, bench or other solid object that’s knee height or a little taller on you.
- Perch right on the edge of that chair and sit up very straight with your eyes and chest lifted, holding your arms up and out in front of you for balance.
- Stand up, dropping your arms to your side as you rise.
- Reach your bottom back toward the chair, touching it gently before standing again.
Tip: Try to keep your knees straight over your toes and don’t let them drift in toward each other or bow out to the sides.
Variation: Descend slowly, hold it at the bottom for a moment and rise more quickly. If it doesn’t feel good on any of your joints to go all the way to the chair, go half way down.
Modified or Incline Push-Up:
Pick a solid raised surface like a counter-top, desk or table (the higher the better) that you can lean forward into with your feet 3 or 4 feet back.
- Standing on your toes with your weight supported on your hands, hold your body straight in ”plank” position. (Try to keep your hips from sagging forward or pushing out behind you.
- Bend your elbows, lowering your body as one unit toward the raised surface.
- Pause briefly at the bottom of the motion, then press your arms straight again to push away.
Make sure you have a very solid seat to work from; a bench or step will work as well as a chair.
- Place both hands next to your hips on the seat.
- Slowly lower yourself off of the front of the seat with your chest lifted up.
- Push back up as though you were going to sit in the chair again, but continue going up and down.
Variation: Use a chair with two firm armrests and push your body weight up and out of the chair; this causes less shoulder extension.
If you’re new to doing strengthening exercise, go easy and see how you feel tomorrow. It’s okay to feel muscle burn while you’re doing the exercises, and a little soreness afterward is okay, but joint or spine pain during or after should be avoided.