A Beginner's Guide to Strength Training at home
Strength training is important, not just for body shape, muscle tone and posture, but for the quality and protection of our joints as well as supporting our metabolic rate and making weight management a much easier process.
Although there is a wealth of exercise machinery and stability 'toys' availability (such as swiss balls, BOSU's, power plates, TRX, cables, Vipers etc), one of the best forms of resistance for strength training is your own bodyweight. All you need is yourself and a bit of space in your home, plus the understanding of how to perform exercise with the right technique.
I have created a very simple and user-friendly beginner's home workout using just 5 exercises that are grouped together in a little circuit to create a total body workout in your own home.
Start with any of the following exercises:
- The Floor bridge - for the core muscles, bum and thighs
- The Plank - for the core muscles and shoulder stabilisers
- Press ups - for the chest and upper arms (triceps)
- Bodyweight squats - for the whole lower body, especially the thighs and bum
- The 'V' sit with a reach up and to the side - for the core muscles, especially the oblique's (side abdominals)
1. The Floor bridge - for the core muscles, bum and thighs
Start position: Lie on your back with your feet hip width apart and moderately close to your bum, hands across chest
Preparation: Pull your tummy muscles into your body and consciously clench your bum
Action: While keeping tummy and bum clenched lift your pelvis off the floor towards the ceiling as high as it will go then slowly return it to the floor (while keeping your bum muscles tensed). Repeat for 15-20 times.
Tip for maximum benefit: Push through the HEELS of your feet as this makes your bum muscles work harder. You are aiming to really feel your bum working.
2. The Plank - for the core muscles and shoulder stabilisers
Start Position: Lie on your front, with your elbows positioned underneath and inline with your shoulders.
Preparation: Draw your tummy muscles in towards your body and keep them held in throughout the exercise.
Action: While keeping your tummy tight, lift up onto your toes and lift your body into the air so it creates a parallel 'plank' like position. Ensure you don't let your hips sag down as this will put pressure on your lower back. A higher bum position is better than a lower one. Hold this position for as long as you can (anything up to 60 seconds).
Tip for maximum benefit: You should never feel your lower back, only your tummy muscles, so lift your bum higher to avoid using your back. If your core (tummy muscles) are too weak to do this, then start by doing a plank on your knees (same principle) instead, and build up to this one
3. Press ups - for the chest and upper arms (triceps)
Start Position: Start on your knees, with your hands wider than shoulder width (wider is easier) and then drop your hips forwards so your chest is aligned over your hands - this is to ensure you use the right muscles and not your shoulders and neck!
Preparation: Draw your tummy muscles into your body and keep them held in throughout the exercise.
Action: Bend at your elbows and lower your body towards the floor, till you achieve around 90 degrees at your elbows, then push to extend your arms and return to the start position.
Tip for maximum benefit: Try to keep your weight on your hands and upper body, and ensure your chest remains over your hands (you should almost feel like you are going to fall forwards - you won't though!)
4. Bodyweight squats - for the whole lower body, especially the thighs and bum
Start Position: Place your feet wider than shoulder-width, ensuring your feet are positioned in line with each other and facing forwards.
Preparation: Lift the arms out in front of the body, parallel to the floor (this will help with balance during the exercise). Draw your tummy muscles into your body and push your bodyweight into the heels of your feet.
Action: Pushing your bum back, bend the knees and imagine you are trying to touch the wall behind you (this encourages the right direction of movement). Lower the body as low as feels manageable, ensuring the knees DO NOT travel over the toes and then clench your bum to stand up, returning to the start position.
Tip for maximum benefit: Ensure you keep your tummy muscles pulled in throughout the exercise and push through your heels, clenching your bum when you stand to achieve the best technique while protecting your knees and back.
5. The 'V' sit with a reach up and to the side - for the core muscles, especially the oblique's (side abdominals)
Start Position: Start in a seated position on the floor, ideally with a towel or mat under your bum for comfort, feet together.
Preparation: Pull your tummy muscles into your body
Action: To begin the exercise, tilt back with the body and lift your legs off the floor so you are essentially balancing in a V shape. If you can manage this efficiently, then progress to reaching up to the ceiling with both hands together, followed by reaching to touch the floor on one side of the body, while keeping the body still. Continue this movement up and to each side for 10-15 repetitions.
Tip for maximum benefit: Keep your tummy tight throughout and ensure you don't lose your posture - keep your chest up during the exercise.