It’s that time of year again! The time of year when we make New Year’s resolutions that we only keep for a few weeks and then quietly forget about them. The most common resolution is to lose those extra pounds and start going to the gym. To help you out with this, I thought I would offer some exercises to assist in this endeavor. Most people, especially women (sorry ladies) tend to think that cardio is the answer. I’m here to tell you that it only goes so far, and that weight training, yes weight training can really help in weight loss. While cardio helps you break a sweat, it only does so much for the body after the workout is done. When your body gains muscle, it continues to burn fat even after you have worked out helping with weight loss. Trust me ladies (and gentlemen), weight training is not something to be afraid of or stressed over. I know the normal reaction, I had it too. “Oh no I’m going to get huge and look like a man!” I thought this until I tried it and I never looked back. Weight training will only make you big if you want it to, in the end it will make you stronger and help you to feel better in the long run. I repeat, you will NOT become some body builder or bulky looking person unless you WANT to be. Here are some exercises which include proper form for all of them to get you started. Most if not all of these can be done in a dorm room or small area which means no expensive gym membership for you!
This is a great leg exercise that is not difficult to do but not many do it properly. You can do this with or without weight, though form is more important. Without weight, begin in a standing position with feet hip width apart and shoulders back. Proper posture is important. If you choose, you can either have your toes facing straight or slightly out to the side. The most important thing is that your knees never cross over your toes because this will mean that you are putting more weight on your knees which will eventually cause pain and not work on your thighs like the exercise should. The best trick I can give you is to lead with your butt which in turn means to lead with your hips. Many people say that it is as if you are sitting in a chair behind you. I always think that I need to lead with my butt. Odd I know but it works! That way your hips move back, your back is arched properly, and you can put the weight on your thighs where it should be. If you get down the form, you can always start to add weight with small barbells, plates, or even a weight lifting bar. As you add weight you will get stronger and the reps will decrease because it will get more difficult.
This is a great triceps workout that can be done anywhere. Your triceps are the muscle on the back of your upper arm. It is a muscle that is sometimes ignored but important in order to get nice toned arms. Once again have your feet shoulder width apart and slightly bend your knees. With a weight in each hand begin with your arms on each side bent with the weights near your shoulders. Then slowly extend behind you so that your arms straighten out. The important note here is that you do so slowly, especially when using a small weight. It is easy to do this quickly but you won’t get much out of it if you do.
This is another common exercise that a majority of people already know about. A good tip for this exercise is to try it with your back up against a wall in order to ensure proper form. Most everyone knows a bicep curl is palms up on the weights and with arms down slowly pulling them up until your hands are at your shoulders. The important fact once again is to keep it slow and not rush through it. When you add more weight your body is more likely to rock back and forth with your hips putting the weight on your lower back. While doing this is easier, it doesn’t help work on your biceps and it will only cause pain. To take it to a different level try going only halfway up for a few repetitions and then doing a full curl. Bring the weight up just enough that your elbows are bent and your forearms are straight. Then bring the weight back down to starting position and repeat as desired.
This is another leg exercise that can be done in a variety of ways depending on space available and preference. One option is to start with one foot forward and one in back on your toe. Bend the front knee to a complete lunge and do as many repetitions as desired. You can then switch legs and use weight or just your body weight. You can also start with feet slightly spread apart and step with one foot forward into a lunge then back to the starting position. To make it more difficult, you can do the same but backwards which requires some more coordination and balance. Lastly, there is the option of walking lunges which can be done along a track with or without weights walking with each step being a lunge with the opposite leg. The great thing about lunges is that you can make it more difficult if necessary and it does not get as repetitive or boring as some others.
Using a barbell or dumbbells keep your arms shoulder width apart laying on your back and bring the weight towards your body. Slowly push the weight away from you until your arms are extended again. Make sure your elbows go out to the side, you want to get the weight close to your chest without actually hitting it. Though I am doing this workout on the floor, this is not a good idea. I recommend using a bench or steppers depending on what you have access to. This will help your back and give you a better workout.
This is another great exercise that you can do anywhere. Using a barbell or dumbbell keep your legs shoulder width apart with palms facing down. Stand with shoulders back and slowly bend the weight down to your knees then come back up. Make sure that you are facing forward because it will force your shoulders to stay back and upright. If you are using dumbbells have your hands at your sides and bend your knees until the weights almost touch the floor and come back up.
One Arm Row:
This is a great bicep workout that is easy to recreate. Using one dumbbell and a bench, lean one hand and one knee from the same side on the bench. Holding the dumbbell in your hand start with arm extended just hanging and pull the dumbbell towards you keeping your back straight and the weight controlled. Do the same for both sides and increase the weight when necessary. Much like the tricep workouts, your arm needs to be controlled and do not swing the weight or move quickly through the exercise. You can also take this exercise and use both arms for what is known as a row. Much like the one arm row, this works your upper body, from the deadlift position with your back slightly arched and arms back take the weight with your palms facing down. Pull the weight towards your body and let the weight go back down.
Clean and Press:
This is a great leg exercise that also uses your upper body. Standing with feet shoulder width apart and knees slightly bent, use a barbell with palms facing down. With shoulders back like a deadlift, bring the weight halfway down your thighs and using your legs as well as your arms pull the weight up to your chest so that your elbows stick out straight. From this position push the weight up over your head extending your arms completely. Repeat this depending on how much weight you use. The important thing is to take your time and make sure that your back is arched and your shoulders are back. Without proper posture this will become painful because all of the weight will go onto your back. Do not swing the weight forward but instead pull it straight up bending your arms and bringing your body underneath it. Also, do not just use your arms because the legs are very important in this exercise. This is an Olympic weightlift exercise which is more complicated than the other ones I have already listed but still a great option. For something different and a little easier, do the same movement but as a one arm clean and press. You will use a dumbbell and still bring the weight by your knee pull it up to your chest and then straighten out your arm.
This works your upper body by using a barbell at chest height (or dumbbells starting at shoulders) and pressing upwards extending your arms fully. If using a barbell, watch your chin because it can get hit. This does not mean that you should not move up in a straight line from your chest. Simply watch the position of your head when coming up but continue in a straight line rather than going out and up. Repeat this for a few repetitions or many depending on how much weight you use.
This exercise uses some smaller muscles and because of this I recommend using light weight if you plan on doing other exercises. They are your deltoid and other small muscle groups which are not used as often and will become sore much easier. With dumbbells in your hands bring your arms up so that your elbows are bent but forearms facing forward. Then lift your forearms so that your palms face forward. Then bring your forearms back down then begin with your arms together bent. Repeat this as many times as desired.
These are just some of the weight exercises you can do whether you are at the gym or in your home. There are endless possibilities and the weight and repetitions that you do are up to you. Personally, I take these weight exercises and create my own circuit consisting of four or even five different exercises. Moving from one move to another helps get rid of that boredom factor and helps you to use different muscle groups. What works for one person may not work for another so just try and see what happens! I do recommend to start with either no weight or just a small amount of weight to get muscle memory and good form. Don’t be afraid to research more or ask trainers at your local gym. I hope you all have a happy and healthy New Year and good luck on those New Year’s resolutions!