January is often a time for healthy resolutions; Eating right, exercising, sleeping more and breaking bad habits. Yet, even with the best intentions, accomplishing all the lofty goals we set can be daunting.
Shannon Slovensky, M.Ed., an exercise physiologist with the UVA Exercise Physiology Core Laboratory, explains that adopting a strength training routine should be manageable.
“Exercise doesn’t have to be a formal class at the gym, and you don’t need to hire a personal trainer to get in shape,” Slovensky says.
According to lab director Art Weltman, PhD, “There are numerous benefits to strength training, including reducing the signs and symptoms of a number of diseases and improving quality of life.”
With strength and ease in mind, Slovensky designed the following workout that can be done at home or in the office.
It requires a desk chair and a set of moderate hand weights (5-10 pounds). If you are not currently strength training, this can help get you started. If you are already strength training, this is a great way to add strength exercises if you miss your normal routine.
Before beginning these exercises:
- Make sure the chair is stable by turning it around and securing against your desk or a wall.
- Warm up by marching in place a few times, rolling the shoulders up, back and around and reaching the arms overhead.
Perform 10-12 repetitions of each exercise and gradually progress to 3 sets. Maintain slow-controlled movements, and don’t forget to breathe!
Chair Abdominal Curl
Scoot your body to the front edge of your desk chair. Curve your body back until you feel your shoulders graze the back of the desk chair; then curve forward again. This exercise should be felt in the front of the torso (rectus abdominus and obliques), not the lower back!
Note: If you feel it in your lower back, try curving towards your tailbone more as you curve back and relax your hips.
Place your hands shoulder-width apart. Lower your chest towards the chair, and press back up to the starting position. Maintain a slight engagement of your abdominal, glute and leg muscles to prevent hips from sagging to the floor; in other words, imagine your body as a long, stable line from the crown of your head to your heels.
Note: Beginners can perform the same exercise by placing hands on the desk or wall for a more stable surface.
Chair Abdominal with Oblique Twist
Scoot your body to the front edge of your desk chair. Curve back, as you did in the chair abdominal curl. Then rotate your torso to the right as you lift your right knee up. Then repeat, rotating to the left and lifting your left knee.
Stand with your back to the wall and your inner legs touching. Slide your body down the wall until your knees are bent to almost 90 degrees. Hold this position for 40-60 seconds. Repeat.
Note: This exercise should be felt in the muscles of the thigh and the glutes, not in the knee joint. If this causes knee pain, modify or skip.
Stand with your legs shoulder-distance apart and knees slightly bent. Hold hand weights in front of you with palms facing inward. Raise the weights out to the side, initiating the movement with the muscles between your shoulder blades. Keep elbows slightly bent. Return to start and repeat.
Squat and Overhead Press
Begin by standing with your feet hip-distance apart and holding hand weights by your side. Squat down, shifting your hips back (as though you are going to sit in a chair). Keep your back as straight as possible, so that the work comes from bending your legs, not from rounding your spine.
Use strong legs, to press back to standing, then curl the hand weights towards your shoulders (as in a bicep curl), then press the weights overhead (like an overhead press). Slowly lower the weights to the starting position and repeat.
Begin in a low-lunge position; with your right leg forward and your left leg back with your back toes curled under. Press firmly into both feet to bring yourself to standing position. Then slowly lower your body down until your knee almost touches the floor. Then press back to standing.
Note: Hand weights are optional and this can be modified for beginners or those with knee pain by lowering halfway down.
One-legged Dead Lift
Begin by standing on one leg holding one hand weight in your right hand. Reach the hand weight toward to ground keeping your back straight. As you tip your body forward, the non-standing leg will reach back behind you for counter balance. To return to standing, press your standing leg into the ground and use your leg and glute strength to return to standing. Repeat.
Note: Hand weight is optional.
Side Plank with Rotation
Place your right hand on desk and walk your body out to a side plank position. Reach your left hand into the air. Rotate your torso towards the floor and reach the left and under your lower side ribs. Rotate back to starting position.
Note: This targets the shoulder stabilizers and obliques. Working these muscles requires rotating the torso (not just moving the raised arm). This can also be done on the floor for more challenge.
Place your hands on the sides of the chair and scoot your body forward until your hips drop off the chair.
Bend your arms, moving the elbows back behind you and lower your hips closer to the floor.
Press back up to start and repeat.
Keep Your Resolutions
Ready to Make a Change?
Consider establishing a baseline to track your progress – from simple at-home measurements to advanced fitness level and body composition assessments. Knowing where you started can help you measure accomplishments.
Get Even More Exercise Advice
For more exercise advice, training tips and fitness tutorials, follow the Exercise Physiology Core Lab on Facebook.