Easy exercises you can do at home to boost strength and health
Adults should do muscle-strengthening exercises twice a week, as well as aerobic exercise, to help them stay active and healthy, according to the NHS. And the great news is, you can easily do them from home.
If that makes you feel, er, weak at the knees, don’t worry – personal fitness trainer Adam Peacock is here to show you how to do it. Adam says “A lot of the time we focus on aerobic work, but thankfully people are coming round more to resistance exercises. We’re realising you have to get that bit stronger to get healthier. If people want to lose weight, they often drastically cut calories and along with that they’ll be likely to lose muscle mass. But muscle makes you a more efficient machine, so you can burn calories. Muscle is key to losing weight and maintaining the weight loss, and to being fitter and healthier.”
Adam uses a resistance band, which requires your muscles to work harder. Choose a strength of band that gives you a good workout but still allows you to complete the exercises with a full range of movement.
“The nice thing about the spear thruster is you’ve got a pull and a push motion to it, so you work a lot of your back, as well as your chest, triceps and shoulders”, says Adam. It also works your arms, quads, core, glutes and adductors. Loop the resistance band around a strong post, close to the ground, then step to the side so the band is tight. Stand side-on to the post with your legs apart, holding the band in both hands at hip height, with your palms facing downwards. Lunge to the side, pulling the band across your body and then pushing it away. Your weight should shift from your back leg to your front. Return to your start position, then repeat for 30 seconds before doing the exercises again on the other side. According to Adam, this move is “dynamic – that’s the most appealing thing about it – so you feel you’re working out and it’s doing you good.”
Face pull and split-squat
This move works your mid and upper back, rotator cuff, glutes, quads and calves. The face pull is particularly good for anyone who spends a lot of time sitting or slouched over a desk. Loop the band around a post or banister, at head height. Hold it with both hands, palms facing upwards, and step backwards while looking at the post and keeping your back heel off the ground. Pull the band towards your face – your hands should finish further back than your elbow. Bend your knees and lower yourself into a squat, keeping the band at shoulder height. Most of your weight should be pushing on the heel of your front foot. Don’t push your knee over the end of your toes. Return to the start position, then repeat for 30 seconds, before doing the execises again on the other side. “For a lot of people who struggle with squats, the split squat allows them to get more depth,” says Adam.
Alternating side-lunge and chest-press
“We tend to move in one direction a lot of the time, so it’s good to work other muscle groups,” says Adam. “Don’t always choose something where you’re moving forward.” The chest press works your chest, triceps and front deltoids; the side lunges are great for your abductors, adductors, glutes and hamstrings. Start with your feet close together and the band looped around your back. Step your left leg 1–1.5 metres to the side, bending it at the knee, with the toes pointing at 11 o’clock. Most of your weight should be through this leg, but keep your weight back and make sure your bent knee doesn’t go over your toes. The other leg should be straight. Press your arms forwards but keep them straight. Cross them over one another so your elbows align. Bring your arms back. Repeat, alternating your legs. The toes of your right foot should point to 1 o’clock when you lunge with your right leg.
Reverse-lunge and row
“This is a great exercise for strengthening the upper back of older adults,” says Adam. “It’s also great for strengthening the rotator cuff and lots of muscle groups in the back.” It improves body strength, balance and coordination. Stand straight, with your elbows bent at 90 degrees, tight to the side of your body. Grip the resistance band in front of you with your palms facing upwards and about 20cm apart. Lunge backwards with one leg, keeping the back heel off the floor, while bending your front leg. Most of your weight should be through your front leg. Pull the band apart 5–8cm, keeping your elbows close to your body. Draw the band towards the top of your tummy and squeeze the muscles in your back. Bring the band forward again while maintaining the tension in it. Return to your start position, then repeat the move for 30 seconds. Swap legs and repeat.
Squat and shoulder press
This works your shoulders, core, triceps, glutes, quads and hamstrings. “There are various ways to do this,” says Adam, “you can do wall ball throws – so you squat down with a padded ball, throw it up against the wall, then catch it and go back down into a squat, or you can hold onto dumb bells and do a similar sort of movement or even use a bar bell”. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, pointing outwards a little. With your palms facing forwards, hold the resistance band near your chest, with your hands slightly more than shoulder-width apart. Bend the knees and hips, sticking your bottom out, as you come down slowly into a squat, keeping your heels on the ground. Stand up and stretch your arms above your head while pulling the resistance band apart. Bring the band back down to your chest and return to your start position. Repeat.
Completing your fitness plan
It’s important to be physically active and minimise time spent being sedentary. As well as the strength exercises, adults should do at least 150 minutes of activity such as brisk walking or cycling, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity such as running, each week. This combination will help protect against obesity, type-2 diabetes, heart disease and depression.
Adam can be seen showing more exercises on Lose Weight and Get Fit with Tom Kerridge on BBC iplayer.