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How should I start strength exercises?

A good place to start strength training is by simply using your own body weight and depending on your current fitness level, there are plenty of options for a variety of exercises. I recommend beginning by doing exercises that will strengthen your core (abdominals and back muscles). Having a strong core gives you a good foundation which will improve your posture, balance and overall stability when engaging in any activity. The following are just three exercises that could get you on your way to building a strong core.

Floor Bridge: Lie on your back with both knees bent. Straighten your arms by your sides, palms facing up. Next lift your hips up until you are in a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Hold for 1-2 seconds then lower back to the floor. Repeat this movement 10 times.

Plank: Lie face down on the floor then lift yourself up on just your elbows and your toes. Try to keep yourself in a straight line with your head in a neutral position (looking at the floor). Hold this position for at least 10-15 seconds. Rest on the floor for a few seconds then lift yourself back to the "plank" position. Repeat movement a few more times. If this is too difficult, try raising your buttocks up just a bit when you raise yourself up.

Basic Crunch (or sit-up): Lie on floor with knees bent. (You could have someone hold your feet so they do not lift during the movement, or tuck them under a piece of furniture.) Bend your arms and lightly touch behind each ear. Now lift up so your shoulder blades come off of the floor and your abdominal become engaged. It intensifies the movement if you also draw in your belly button during the lift. Make sure to keep your elbows back and not curled around your head. You should not "lift" your head, you want your abdominals to do all the work. Also try to avoid your chin tucking in, try to point it to the ceiling when you lift up. Repeat movement 12-20 times. To engage your side abdominals, add a twist when you lift up so your elbow points toward the opposite knee.
 

There are a variety of resistance-training modalities that can be used to develop strength. The most common form of resistance used in strength-training programs is actual load in the form of free weights (dumbbells, barbells), body weight, and selectorized machines and cable apparatuses. Regardless of the modality you choose, it is important to start slow to allow your body (muscles, tendons, ligaments) time to adapt to this new stress. Generally speaking, start with light weights and use a slow tempo focusing on proper form and technique. If you’re brand new to strength training begin by performing 1 set of 8-20 repetitions. As you progress, heavier loads and more sets can be introduced into your routine. Strive to perform strength-training exercises 2-3 times per week focusing on all major muscle groups.

Here are three exercises that require no equipment and will get you started.

Squat: Strengthens hips, thighs, and buttocks
Squat 10 times, rest for one minute, and then squat another 10 times.

  1. Stand in front of a sturdy chair. Your legs are hip-width apart, and your arms are both directly out in front of you.
  2. Bend your knees as you slowly lower your buttocks toward the chair, counting to four before you touch the chair. (If you find it difficult at first, put a pillow or two on the chair).
  3. Pause while sitting there and then slowly rise back to a standing position. Keep your knees from coming in front of your ankles (not reaching too far in front, which puts pressure on your knee joints) and your back straight.

Wall push-up: Strengthens arms, shoulders, and chest
Do 10, rest for a minute, and then do 10 more.

  1. Stand facing a wall, a little farther than an arm's distance away. Lean forward with your arms straight out (shoulder height) and flatten your palms against the wall.
  2. Bend your elbows as you lower your upper body toward the wall in a slow, controlled motion as you count to four. Keep your feet planted.
  3. Pause and then slowly push yourself back, counting to four. Don't lock your elbows or arch your back.

Toe stand: Strengthens calves and ankles and helps with balance
Do 10 toe stands, rest for a minute, and then do 10 more.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, facing a chair or a counter. You may touch the chair or the counter lightly for balance; don't lean on it.
  2. Slowly push up onto the balls of your feet as you count to four. Hold this position for two to four seconds.
  3. Slowly lower your heels back to the floor, counting to four.
    (An advanced move is to do this exercise on a staircase, letting your heels hang over the edge of the stair. After the toe stand, let your heels come down lower than the balls of your feet).
Our Bodies, Ourselves: Menopause

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.