Kick Up Your Strength Training

If you tried the first part of our strength-training program, you know that a few surprisingly simple exercises can help you become toned, stronger and healthier in almost no time, at home or in the gym.

Heres the next step.

Those of you who started the first part of our two-part, total-body tone-up plan are hopefully fitter, leaner, and hooked on those bite-sized strength-training sessions that got you where you are.

The only problem: Now that the squats and lunges that gave your thigh muscles a wake-up call are becoming a breeze, the initial workout needs to be hiked up a notch or two.

If you dont want your strength to plateau, you have to keep challenging your muscles, says Miriam Nelson, director of the Center for Physical Fitness at Tufts University and author of Strong Women Stay Slim (Bantam, 1998).

That translates into different moves and more weight. For part two, WALKINGs Mark Fenton and fitness expert Donna Richardson of NBCs Later Todayup the ante by condensing the four shorter weekly workouts of Part 1 into two 45-minute weekly efforts.

The result: Youll find some familiar exercises made a bit more challenging, as well as some entirely new moves for your stronger, more coordinated body to tackle.

THE WORKOUT PROGRAM

This second installment of our 18-week resistance training program assumes youve completed the first nine weeks and have therefore built a base level of fitness.

All of the exercises in Parts 1 and 2 can be done at home or in a gym. If you feel uncertain about any of the exercises, you may find it helpful to go through them once with a trainer to double-check your form.

Other training tips:

Do the entire routine two or three times a week; ideally, five workouts every two weeks. You will need a weight bar and weights or dumbbells of various sizes (probably 5 to 25 pounds, depending on fitness level), a floor mat, a bench or chair, and a chin-up bar suspended in a doorway.

Equivalent exercises can be done with machines at a gym, if you prefer. Work up to two sets of each exercise, 12 repetitions unless otherwise noted. Do the exercises in the order shown to work paired muscle groups.

Push-ups
Begin with only hands and knees on the floor, knees together, hands shoulder-width apart, arms straight. Keep head, neck, and back in a straight line. Bend arms and lower chest to floor, then press arms out straight and return to start. When able to finish 12 reps, go to full push-ups, with only toes and hands on the ground, body held board flat from head to toes.

Bent-over rows
Begin with right hand and knee on bench, left foot on floor, left arm hanging straight down, holding the weight. Keep your back flat and parallel to ground. Slowly pull weight up to shoulder, squeezing shoulder blades to finish; slowly return to start. Complete a set, then switch sides.

Lunge with weights
Same exercise as part one, but hold weights for greater resistance. Begin standing with feet hip-width apart. Hold dumbbells down at your sides. Take a large step forward until your front thigh is parallel with the floor and knee is over your ankle, not your toes. Push forcefully off with your front foot to return to standing position. Alternate legs, 10 reps each.

Full abdominal crunch
Lie on your back with legs extended up toward the ceiling and arms resting beside you on the floor. Extend your arms upward and contract your abdominals in order to lift your head, neck, shoulders, and hips off the mat. Reach toward the ceiling with both feet and hands.

Overhead press
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent. Hold weights in hands in front of shoulders. Slowly extend arms straight up overhead, without locking elbows, then lower weights and return to start.

Pull-ups(or assisted pull-ups)
Hang from a horizontal bar, arms extended, palms forward, hand grip slightly wider than shoulder width; slowly pull chin up to bar, then slowly lower. To assist slightly, you can bend your legs and rest toes on a bench if unable to lift full body weight.

Easier option: Suspend a broomstick securely between two identical-height chairs. Lie on back between chairs, reach up and hold broomstick with hands slightly wider than shoulder width. Slowly pull upper body off ground until top of chest reaches stick; slowly return to start. (In the gym, use a lat pull-down machine.)

Squat with weights
Stand tall, feet hip-width apart, place bar across shoulders (wrap with a towel for comfort) or hold dumbbells at sides. Keeping your back straight, bend knees and lower your buttocks to a half-sitting position. Knees should not extend over your toes. Return to starting position.

Isometric side support
Lie on right side on exercise mat. Place right forearm on ground below right shoulder, thus lifting upper body off mat. Straighten body so that it is supported between the right forearm and foot, with the right side of body facing the floor, left side facing the ceiling. Hold for 15 seconds, building up to 30 seconds. Do twice on each side. If too difficult, begin with knees bent, and suspend body between right arm and knee.

Dips
Sit on the edge of a bench with hands on the edge next to buttocks. Slide butt forward off edge, bend arms and drop until elbows are bent almost 90 degrees, then press back up. Feet on the ground with legs bent makes these easier; feet on ground with legs straight forward is harder; feet elevated on another chair is hardest.

Advanced: Hold full body weight between two parallel bars with legs hanging down; bend arms and lower body until elbows bend almost 90 degrees, then press back up.

Biceps curl
Seated on a bench with legs spread, place your right elbow inside the right knee, braced with the left hand. Your right hand holds the weight, and arm starts straight. Slowly bend it until the weight is up at the shoulder, then return to start position. Complete a set, then switch sides.

Modified plank
Lie flat on the floor, face down. Keeping your body flat, lift your entire body off the floor, supporting your torso on your elbows and forearms, and your legs on your toes; only your forearms and toes should touch the ground. (Your abdominal muscles will be working to hold this position.) Slowly raise your right leg 6 to 10 inches, hold for a two count, and lower. Alternate lifting legs, 10 on each side. As fitness improves, hold the leg up for a five count.

 

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