Upper Body Exercises
The major muscle groups in the upper body include the arms, shoulders and chest. Each muscle has a job, and making it perform that job over and over, and with increasing weight, is how you get strong, lean muscles.
The major muscles in the arms are the biceps and triceps. You feel the biceps working when you flex your arm at the elbow. The triceps are opposite the biceps and take you from bent elbow to straight arm.
Bicep Curls: Using a pair of dumbbells that are challenging yet comfortable to lift for 10-12 repetitions, stand with feet hip-width apart, back straight and abs tight. Grab a dumbbell with each hand and turn the palms facing front and elbows by your sides. Curl the weights upward and slowly lower back down. Do 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions.
Hammer Curls: Stand with feet hip-width apart and a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing in toward each other. Keeping the palms faced-in, bend the elbow and lift the weight up. Slowly lower and repeat. Do 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions.
Tricep Kickbacks: Using the same dumbbells, stand in a lunge position with the left leg in front. Grab a dumbbell in the right hand and while keeping the arm close to the body and the abs engaged, press the dumbbell backward with your arm straight. Bend the elbow to bring it forward, and repeat. Do 10-12 repetitions 3 times on each side.
Overhead Tricep: Stand with feet hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell in one hand. Bring the arm behind your head and bend the elbow as if in a crunch position. The palm should be facing the back of your head. Straighten the arm but don’t lock the elbow. Hold for one count and slowly lower to starting position. Repeat for 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions.
Shoulders and Chest
Some of the most neglected muscles are in the shoulders. Strength in the shoulders is important because it helps you to stand taller and have more balance. The shoulders are comprised of 3 deltoid muscles and 4 rotator cuff muscles.
Shoulder Press: Grab a dumbbell with each hand and stand with your feet hip-width apart, palms facing forward. Press the weights overhead and lock the elbows at the top, making sure not to lean over. Slowly lower to head-level and repeat for 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions.
T-Raises: With feet hip-width apart, grab a dumbbell with each hand and hold it down in front of your thighs, palms faced down. Slowly raise your arms straight out in front of you until you reach shoulder level. Then make a T by bringing each arm out to the side. Bring them back in and slowly lower. Do 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions.
W Shoulders: Stand with feet hip-width apart and a dumbbell in each hand. Bend the elbows so they are pointed toward the floor and palms are faced in at shoulder level. Your arms should be in a W shape. Slowly lift the arms straight up toward the ceiling and slowly lower. Repeat for 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions.
Men and women have different goals when it comes to working this part of the body although the function is the same - for pushing motions and to draw the arms back inward. For women, the goal is to work the upper part of the muscle in order to lift the breasts. For men, it’s important to get a well-balanced workout that focuses on the upper, middle, and lower parts of the chest.
Push Ups: Get into a plank position with hands on the ground, right underneath the shoulders, fully extended and legs straight behind you with toes on the floor. Slowly bend the elbows and lower your chest to the floor. When the tip of your nose grazes the floor, push back up to starting. Repeat. Do 3 sets of as many repetitions as your comfortable with while still challenging yourself.
Chest Flies: Lie on your back with a dumbbell in each hand. Straighten the arms overhead with the palms faced toward each other. With a slight bend in the elbow, slowly lower arms out to your side and bring them back up, squeezing at the top. Repeat for 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions.
Chest Presses: Lie on your back with a dumbbell in each hand. Hold the weights up with elbows bent and palms facing in. Raise the dumbbells straight up and slowly bring back down. Repeat for 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions.
The core includes the abs and the back. Although a ripped 6-pack is at the top of most people’s workout agenda, it won’t happen without adequate focus on the often forgotten back muscles.
The job of the ab muscles is to draw the rib cage toward the pelvis and to help you move laterally at the hips. The abs have 4 parts - upper, middle, lower, and outer. Luckily, by training the lower and outer ab muscles, the upper and middle muscles get worked at the same time.
Bicycle Crunches: Lie on your back with the lower back pressed to the floor and the knees bent at a 90-degree angle to the floor. Place the fingers behind the head and lift the shoulders off the floor. Twist the left knee into the right armpit while straightening the right leg. As if you were pedaling a bike, switch legs and bring the right knee to the left armpit while straightening the left leg. Repeat for 3 sets of 15-20 repetitions.
Vertical Leg Crunches: Lie on your back with the legs lifted perpendicular to the floor. Place the hands lightly behind the head and lift the head, shoulders, and upper back off the floor 3-5 inches. Slowly lower and repeat. Do 3 sets of 15-20 repetitions.
Plank: Lie face down on the floor with the forearms resting flat on the floor in front of you. Push your body off the floor while balancing on the forearms and toes. Keep the spine neutral and hold for as long as possible, up to 60 seconds. Repeat 3-5 times.
Crossover Crunch: Lie on your back with hands behind your head, knees bent, and feet flat on the floor. Cross one leg over the knee so that the ankle is resting on the knee. Curl the upper body up and lift the legs toward the elbows. Lower the head and feet but don’t touch the floor. Repeat for 3 sets of 15-20 repetitions.
A strong back is essential for good posture and to help prevent or ease lower back pain. The muscles of the back include the trapezius, which move and stabilize the shoulder blades, the latissimus dorsi, which are the wing-like muscles on each side of the back that enable the pulling motion, and the erector spinae, which keeps you standing upright and are worked whenever you lean over and balance the body.
Bent-Over Row: Stand with feet hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand. Lean the body toward the floor by bending at the waist in a 45-degree angle. The dumbbells should be hanging directly under your shoulders. Pull the weights up and squeeze the shoulder blades together while keeping the elbows bent and pointed toward the ceiling. Slowly lower the weights to the floor and repeat. Do 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions.
Pull-Over: Lie on the floor with hands above the head, holding one dumbbell between both hands. Bring the arms up over the chest and lower back behind the head and lower to just above the floor. Repeat for 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions.
Back Extensions: Lie on your stomach and rest the arms down by your sides. Gently lift the chest off the ground, hold for a moment and lower back down. Do 3 sets of 15-20 repetitions.
Lower Body Exercise
The butt, thighs, and calves are the focus of these lower body exercises. The lower body is the base of the body, which means it’s your foundation. You need a strong foundation for good balance and power. This is especially important for older adults who are at greater risk of falling and getting serious knee and hip injuries.
The largest and strongest muscles in the body are located in the butt. Whenever you go from a sitting to a standing position, the gluteus maximus is at work. You also work the glutes when you point your toes outward. The secondary muscle group in the butt is the gluteus medius, which works to stabilize the hips and raise the legs out to the side.
Squats: Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width and the toes pointed straight ahead. Keeping a straight back, bend the knees while making sure the knees don’t protrude over the toes. Lower down and slowly come back up. Repeat for 3 sets of 12-15 repetitions.
Lunges: Stand with feet together and toes pointed straight ahead. Keep your back straight and arms at your sides. Step forward with one foot and bend the knee until the thigh is parallel to the floor. Hold for 1-2 counts and push back to starting position. Continue on the same leg for 10-12 repetitions and then repeat on the other leg. Do 3 sets on each leg.
Bridge Curls: Lie on your back with the knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and arms at your side. Lift your hips off the ground and squeeze your glutes and hold for 2 counts. Slowly lower and repeat. Do 3 sets of 15-20 repetitions.
The muscles in the thigh are the quadriceps, which are 4 muscles in the front of the thigh, and their primary function is to extend and straighten the leg. The inner muscles are called the hip adductors, and are opposite the gluteus medius. The hip adductors draw the leg back to the body. The hamstrings are the 3 muscles in the back of the thigh and they work with the glutes to straighten the body. The motions of daily life such as walking, or even running, focus on the front thigh muscles, leaving the back and inner muscles neglected.
More Lower Body
Inner Thigh Lifts. Lie on your side using one hand to support your head and the other hand pressed to the floor in front of your torso for support. Stack the legs on top of each other and then bend the top leg to lie on the floor in front of you. Lift the bottom leg as high as you can and lower, being careful not to touch the floor. Repeat for 12-15 repetitions and repeat on the other side. Do 3 sets on each leg.
Plie’ Squats: Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width and rotate the feet so toes are pointed out. Keep the back straight and a slight bend in the knees. Lower your hips to the floor without moving the pelvis forward or backward.Straighten the legs and repeat. Do 3 sets of 15-20 repetitions.
Side Lunges: Stand with feet together, back straight and arms at your sides. Take a giant step to the side into a lunge position while keeping one leg straight and the other bent at a 90-degree angle. Sit back slightly on your hips and then press back into the starting position. Do 3 sets of 10-12.
The purpose of the calf muscles is to extend the foot or point the toes. When you go up on your tip-toes, you can feel your calf muscles working. Women generally have more developed calf muscles due to their high-heeled shoes.
Calf Raises: Stand on a step or stool, or some other slightly raised platform. Place the balls of the feet on the step so that the heels are hanging off. Slightly bend your knees and raise and lower your feet. Make sure to get a good stretch when lowering the feet. Do as many repetitions as you can.
Step Ups: Stand in front of a raised platform such as a bench or stool. Step up with one foot and follow behind with the other foot so both feet are on the platform. Step down with the lead foot. Do 10-12 repetitions and switch feet. Do 3 sets on each side.
Squats with a Calf Raise: Add a variation to any squat to work out the calves by performing the squat on your tip-toes.