Strength, power, force, might. Call it what you want: our society is obsessed with it. It’s no secret that we live in a World in which strength is valued. And for good reason- along with cardio respiratory endurance, body composition and flexibility, muscular strength and endurance are the best indicators of physical fitness. If you’re intimidated by the freeweights section of your gym and its prerequisite flock of Arnold-wannabes, fear not. Pumping iron isn’t the only way to build and solidify muscle strength and endurance. The best way to build muscle is, of course, by overloading your muscles to break down tissue. This way, your muscles will come back stronger than ever: rebuilding with an increase in fibers to adapt to the new challenges that your body is being presented with. The key to remember is that this overload doesn’t have to come from traditional weights- your body’s weight, gravity and instability can do the trick.
Complete these simple weight-free exercises to get stronger, leaner and meaner this summer:
1. Alternating pushup to side plank
This exercise is considered a “superset” because it combines two exercises with no rest period in between. First, perform a standard pushup. You know, two seconds down, one second up: just like you used to do in gym class. But this time, when you reach the top of your movement, flip onto your side and perform a side plank by rotating your left arm up and reaching for the sky. Hold this plank for 3 seconds and repeat on the left side, moving back into the pushup position before completing the next rep. Do 3 sets of 6 repetitions per side.
2. Inverted row
This non-traditional exercise is a great way to solidify your back muscles. Lie on your back in between two chairs with a broom stick or pole resting over you across the two chairs. Make sure that the pole is at chest level, is steady, and can support the weight of your body. Reach up and grab the pole, and keeping your legs extended, knees locked and your torso tensed, pull yourself up to the pole, holding for 2 seconds at the top of your movement. Repeat for 2 sets of 8 repetitions.
Another superset, this move will strengthen your biceps, back, shoulders and core. Start by completing a standard pullup, holding your head above the bar for a count of two. Upon lowering yourself back down, keep your knees locked and lift your legs up so that your feet are pointing straight ahead of you. This one is tough- don’t sweat it if you are unable to master it at first. Complete 3 sets to failure.
4. Calf Raises
On a staircase, put your toes on the edge of a step, holding on to the handrail to maintain balance. Lower your heals until you feel a nice stretch in your calves, then raise back up as high as you can. For variety, try completing this move on one leg or doing it from a squatting position. Complete 3 sets of 12.
5. Shadow Boxing
Do your best Rocky impersonation to strengthen your legs, arms, shoulders and back. Bounce around on your toes and pretend that you are in a real boxing match, throwing jabs, punches and blocks. You could even throw some kicks if you want to integrate some MMA moves. Do rounds of 3 minutes, resting for one minute in between. Do it until you work up a nice sweat- go a full 12 rounds if you can. Blasting “Eye of the Tiger” optional but encouraged.