When it comes to muscle strength, you don’t have to be a gym junkie in order to stay strong. Muscular strength can be maintained from a great variety of exercises you can do within the comfort of your home.
Many of us are strapped for time and money, so in order to maximize muscular strength, you should aim to target the large muscle groups that you use in everyday life activities. These are often termed “functional” fitness exercises. And strength training not only helps improve your strength, but it also offers a host of major health benefits for your body and your mind.1
Here are seven of the best exercises to help build strong muscle strength and ways you can effortlessly incorporate them into your day. They all require very minimal equipment, so you can easily perform them at the home or office.
1. Train Your Core
Your “core” is made up of three main muscles that form a kind of cylinder around your trunk:
- Tiny deep muscles in your back (multifidus)
- Deep abdominals (transverse abdominis)
- Pelvic floor muscles (yes, even for guys)
These muscles maintain your stability, and they help assist with balance and control of all other movements you make.
Now, the easiest way to enhance your core muscular strength is to learn how to activate your pelvic floor
– the other muscles will follow suit. Your pelvic floor is made up of muscles stretching from your tailbone to your pubic bone, supporting major organs.
To activate these muscles, think about lifting them as if you are trying to gently stop the flow of urine. If you’re not sure which muscles you need to use, try stopping the flow of your urine (briefly) before starting the stream again. Those are the muscles you’re training. It’s often easiest to activate these muscles when breathing out and see if you can maintain it when you breathe in. Try these exercises several times each day for maximum benefit.
Once you get the hang of this key exercise, you can incorporate the core while you’re doing all of your other exercises!
Lunges are a great way to work your larger leg muscles, including:
- Thighs (quads and hamstrings)
- Glute muscles (your butt).
All are essential for most daily activities.
Start with one leg in front of the other, with your front knee directly under your hip. Lunge slowly to a comfortable level, ensuring that your front knee does not go in front of your ankle.
Remember, this is about helping to increase your muscular strength, so aim for at least 3 sets of 6-8 lunge stretches, to begin with, and see if you can work your way up to sets of around 12-15 lunge stretches per leg.
Bridges are another great exercise to target your glutes and hamstrings, as well as your lower back and your core. You need to build muscular strength here, for example, to be able to roll in or out of bed. One of the best things about bridges is that they’re fabulous as stretches too.
Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet close towards your butt. Engage your core as you learned in exercise #1, then lift only your butt off the ground. Hold this for a few seconds before slowly lowering. Then, begin again.
Aim for three sets of 10 bridge raises, with a goal to build up to three sets of 20, or you can try to hold them for up to 10 seconds. This will allow you to maintain not only muscle strength but muscle endurance.
4. Calf Raises
Your calves need to be strong because you push off with them every day when you walk, run, or climb stairs.
Calf raise exercises are especially great because you can literally do them anywhere at any time.
- Simply support yourself with a few fingers on a wall for balance.
- Then, slowly raise up onto your toes, then lower yourself back down again.
- Counting one second to come up and one second to go back down.
You need good muscular strength and endurance in your calves, so try to build up to three sets of 15-20 calf raise stretches. For a further challenge, you could also try performing these with the backs of your feet overhanging a step, which creates a wider range of movement. Just make sure you have something solid to hold on to.
5. Tricep Dips
Triceps dips target the muscle strength of the tricep muscles on the back of your arms – as well as your biceps, your chest, and those muscles at the side of your ribs (latissimus dorsi). You need to strengthen these muscles to be able to get out of a chair, for example.
- Start by standing in front of a chair or bench (with your back to it).
- Place your hands on it, so you’re reaching slightly behind you. Ideally, the height of this chair will be below hip height.
- Make sure your feet are hip-width apart, and that your knees are bent.
- Slowly lower your body, bending at the elbows as far as feels comfortable, and then push through the palms of your hand to push back up to the start position.
Try for three sets of six, to begin with. For more muscular strength, you can aim to build up to three sets of 15. Or, try stretching yourself by finding an even lower surface to push off from.
Rowing is a great way to learn how to build your upper back and shoulder muscle strength – and you don’t need a boat! You could use an exercise band, an old inner tube from a bike tire, or anything else with a bit of stretch.
- Wrap your stretchy band around a pole or door handle that is at chest height. Or, tie a knot in the center, and close it in a door at the same height.
- Begin with your elbows bent, feet hip-width apart, and pull your elbows back in a rowing motion, gently squeezing your shoulder blades in towards each other. You will need to use your core here to help keep your balance.
Aim for three sets of 6-8 for muscular strength, building up to three sets of 15 for more endurance and greater muscle strength.
7. Bicep Curls
You need strong muscular strength in your biceps (at the front of our upper arms) for lifting and carrying groceries. You can easily do these exercises with some hand weights, or even any large food cans in your pantry. You could also stand on an exercise band and pull up on its resistance, instead of using a hand weight.
- Begin with your feet hip-width apart with your arms extended out.
- Keeping your shoulders still, bend your elbows, and slowly lift the weight (or pull up on the band) as far as you can go towards your shoulders.
- Then, slowly lower your arms.
If you’re using a heavier weight, aim for three sets of 6-8 rows, or three sets of 15-20 with a lighter weight.
Muscle Strength Exercises: Final Thoughts
Now that you know how to build strong muscle strength, you can aim to incorporate these exercises into your day. Then as you get better, you can start pushing yourself to do more repetitions.
Finally, it’s important to learn how to breathe properly during all of these muscular strength exercises – breath out on your push or pulls, and breath in on the return.
*Rowing Image courtesy of The Norwegian University of Science and Technology