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  • Writer's pictureClaire Callaghan

5 strengthening exercises you can do at home

Updated: Feb 21, 2021

Want to workout but can't get to the gym? Here are 5 exercises which cover the whole body. You can run through them in less than 10 minutes, or do more repetitions to get more out of the workout. They will help you tone up, feel stronger and compliment other sport or activity you may do. They require little or no equipment - you can use tins from the kitchen cupboard instead of hand weights to begin with if you don't have hand weights. With the exception of sit ups, they are weight bearing, so will help build and maintain bone strength.[1] Women can lose can lose up to 20% of their bone density in the first 5-7 years post menopause. This bone density loss leaves women at higher risk of fracture later in life. To reduce these and other health risks, the latest Public Health England guidelines advise adults to do 2 strengthening exercise sessions a week. [2] If struggling for motivation, it’s worth remembering the aesthetic and mental health benefits of exercise too!

1. Squat

Target areas: abdominals, hips, thighs Equipment: hand weights

Stand with feet apart. Gently draw in abdominals and slowly squat down, bending knees to 60 degrees. Then slowly straighten up, but not fully. Repeat three sets of 10.

To make this harder

a) Hold weights in your hands. These don’t have to be big – 500g to a kilo each hand fine to start with, can increase as you get fitter.

2. Step Lunge

Target areas: abdominals, hips, thighs Equipment: hand weights

Have small weights in your hands – 1-2 kilos to start with is ideal

Step forward, one foot in front of the other. Lunge with knee bent up to 75 degrees. The front knee should not go past the front toe: keep it centred over the middle of your foot.

Do slowly, 30 seconds with one leg leading, then 30 seconds with opposite leg leading. You can do this cycle as many times as you like.

To make this harder

a) Increase the weight as you can. The exercise should feel difficult but not impossible!

b) Do the exercise slowly, pushing up harder from the back leg to make the hips and thighs work more.

c) Do a series of forward lunges, stepping forward after each lunge for 1 minute. This is great as part of a running warm up or to get legs ready for intense exercises.

3. Sit ups

Target areas: abdominals, trunk Equipment: none

Lie on your back, knees bent. Place hands behind the head to support the neck. Gently lift the head and upper body, looking at the ceiling while you do it. It’s important to keep the neck straight so you don’t hurt your neck. 10 repetitions at a time.

To make this harder

a) Vary the speed. Doing it slowly works the deeper abdominals, doing it quickly is challenging and tiring!

b) Keep the upper body off ground in between sit ups

4. Arm and abdominal strength and tone – wall press up

Target areas: shoulders, arms, postural muscles Equipment: none

Step back from the wall, with arms out just below shoulder height. Stand on tip toes. Press up into wall, then out again. 3 sets of 10

To make this harder

a) Push hard away from the wall so that you effectively ‘bounce’ away from the wall and take hands off wall momentarily.

b) Try on the floor – on knees or toes

5. Mountain Climber

Target areas: shoulders, arms, postural muscles, abdominals, legs

Equipment: none

Start in a press up position. Keep back straight, elbows slightly bent and draw in the lower abdominals. Keeping the back straight, lift the right leg up towards your chest. Then return it to the starting position. Now lift the left leg in towards your chest, then lower to starting position. Continue alternating the legs, increasing speed as you can. Do for 30- to 60 seconds at a time to start with, increasing the time as you can.

To make this harder

a) Make it quicker. If you do it fast, your heart rate will rise and you will get the added benefits of high intensity cardio exercise.

b) Do it for longer without a break. It can get challenging!

Extra tips

  • Doing exercise in front of mirror improves form and balance

  • Do you like doing exercise alone or with others? If you like having company, doing this with a friend or partner may help

  • Some people find doing it at the same time each week - if you think that works for you, put it in the diary or have a recurring reminder on your phone.

  • Increase the speed and the tempo and these exercises become more like a high intensity interval training (HIIT) workout, which is great for heart health too.

For Women

Doing exercise with weight is so important for maintaining bone strength, so do use weights or your body weight as a resistance where you can (e.g. weights with lunge, body weight as a resistance in a press up).


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