Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
Are you ready to take your workouts to the next level?
Regardless of whether you’re a weekend warrior, an avid yogi, or never miss a spin class, there’s one type of exercise that experts agree you should be adding to your workout schedule.
With a proven track record of results, strength training should be included in every fitness routine.
Not sure where to get started?
Keep reading for the top strengthening exercises that’ll help you get stronger, fitter, and healthier!
What Is Strength Training?
Before we start looking at specific exercises, let’s define strength training.
Strength training is any exercise that includes outside resistance.
This resistance can come in many forms, including:
- Body weight
- Resistance bands
- Weight machines
- Medicine balls
The Benefits of Strength Training
There are many reasons why strength training is so important.
Here are just a few of them.
- Increase your muscle mass
- Speed up your metabolism and burn more calories, even when you’re sedentary
- Strengthen bones, which reduces your risk of fractures
- Reduce symptoms of chronic conditions such as arthritis, depression, diabetes, and more
- Enhance your cognitive skills, especially in older adults
Now that you know the “what” and “why” behind strength training, let’s get into some of the top strengthening exercises!
Lower Body Strengthening Exercises
Hips, glutes, knees, hamstrings… There are so many muscles—and exercises for them—in the lower body that it can be challenging to know where to begin.
We’ve gone ahead and broken them down into a few different areas, so you can pinpoint the specific lower body muscles you want to train during your workout.
Leg Strengthening Exercises
Squats and lunges (also known as split squats) are two of the most basic exercises and should form the foundation of any strong strength training routine.
To keep it exciting and give your muscles a good variety, try some of these variations.
- Body weight squats
- Wall squats
- Wide-legged (also called a plié) squats
- Goblet squats
- Pistol squats
- Jump squats
- Curtsy squats
- Forward lunges
- Reverse lunges
- Side lunges
- Bulgarian split lunges
- Walking lunges
If you’re just getting started, you can do many of these exercises with just your body weight. This will help you focus more on your form and range of motion.
Perform these exercises in front of a mirror. Once you’ve nailed your form and feel comfortable with the movement, you can add weights in several ways.
- Place a barbell behind your neck on your shoulders. Be sure that the barbell isn’t pulling on your neck or putting any pressure on your neck! Your hands should be right over your shoulders, but if your shoulders are tight or this feels uncomfortable, you can place your hands wider. You can also place a towel over your shoulders for padding if the barbell feels uncomfortable.
- Hold the barbell in front of your body at your shoulders. Cross your arms in front of you (left hand near right shoulder, right hand near left shoulder). This barbell position will really work your core!
- Hold dumbbells in each hand. You can choose whether you want them at your side, on your hips, or held on your shoulders (palm facing inwards).
Knee Strengthening Exercises
Your knees aren’t muscles, so you can’t exactly strength-train your knees.
However, your knees are surrounded and supported by your muscles. And these muscles work together almost like a conveyor belt, pulling on one another.
If you have strong or tight muscles in one area, and weaker muscles in another area, the pull is uneven, causing knee pain.
For example, if your calf muscles are tight, they’ll pull down on the back of your knee. You need strong quadriceps to balance this out.
So the best exercises for your knees are the ones that strengthen the many muscles surrounding your knees.
Along with the squat and lunge exercises above, here are some additional exercises that will help strengthen the muscles around your knees.
- Leg extensions
- Leg flexions
- Hamstring curls
- Straight leg raises
- Calf raises
All of these exercises are effective on their own. But if you want to add more of a challenge, here are some ways to add weights or resistance.
- Add resistance bands.
- Tie on ankle weights.
- Do these exercises on a weight machine at the gym.
Feet and Ankle Strengthening Exercises
Like your knees, your feet and ankles aren’t a muscle. However, there are many muscles around them, and the health of these muscles is crucial to being able to walk and maintain your balance.
Here are some exercises to keep your feet and ankles strong.
- Toe curls and pick-ups
- Towel tugs
- Negative calf raises
- Ankle alphabets
- Ankle circles
- Heel-toe walks
Hip Strengthening Exercises
When we talk about hip muscles, we’re really talking about all of the muscles that cross over the hip bone, which includes the glutes, hamstrings, inner thigh muscles, and more.
When these muscles are weak or tight, your hips won’t be able to perform optimally. This can cause other muscles, such as those around your knees, to be forced to compensate, leading to pain in other parts of your body.
Due to the muscles involved, most of the overall leg-strengthening moves we mentioned earlier also strengthen your hip muscles, especially squats and lunges.
However, there are some exercises that are especially good for the hips. Be sure to add these to your workout if strengthening your hip muscles is one of your goals.
- Reverse lunges
- Lateral lunges
- Sumo (wide-leg) squats
- Banded jump squats
- Lateral lunges
- Hip bridges
- Banded march
- Side plank with a knee drive
- Kettlebell swings
If you tend to work out at the gym, make sure to add the abductor/adductor machine to your routine.
Upper Body Strengthening Exercises
Now that we’ve gone over some of the best strengthening exercises for your lower body, let’s take your workout “upstairs.”
Some of these, such as push-ups, only require body weight. Others can be done with a barbell, dumbbells, a kettlebell, or a medicine ball.
To get started, experiment with a few different weights.
Ideally, you should be able to do at least 5 repetitions of the exercise without losing your form. If you can’t do 5 reps, lower the weight slightly.
On the other hand, if you can easily fly through 10-12 reps, you can go up a bit on your weights.
Arm Strengthening Exercises
Some of the best arm exercises have been around for a pretty long time, and for a good reason. They work!
Even better, they work quickly, with results showing up after just 2-3 months of consistent effort.
Here are our favorite exercises for strengthening your arms.
- Bicep curls
- Hammer curls
- Wide curls
- Reverse curls
- Overhead triceps extensions
- Triceps rows
- Triceps push-ups
- Bent-over triceps extensions
- Triceps dips
Shoulder Strengthening Exercises
Your shoulders are very small and easily injured. If you have any soreness, stiffness, or mobility issues, make sure you warm up your shoulders properly before adding any weights.
The following shoulder exercises should be done using light weights. You can even do them with no weights at first, until your shoulder muscles are ready.
- Overhead presses
- Lateral Raise
- Military presses
- Front raises
- Rear delt fly
While you’re strengthening your shoulders, it’s also a good idea to add in some exercises that will benefit your clavicle and collarbones. For the most part, these don’t require weights.
Here are a couple of good ones you can try.
- Shoulder blade squeezes
- Snow angels, standing or on the ground
Core Strengthening Exercises
People often consider core exercises to be variations of crunches and sit-ups. While those can form part of a core strengthening routine, there’s actually much more to it than that.
Your core is the entire midsection of your body, and includes muscles in your abdominals, pelvis, lower back, and hips.
These are the muscles that help you sit, stand, walk, and otherwise go about your day with a good, strong posture. They also provide balance and stability.
Some of the most important exercises you can do are your core exercises.
- Planks and plank variations
- Side planks
- Mountain climbers
- Crunches and their variations
- Sit-ups and their variations
- Russian twists
- Barbell roll-outs
- Dead bugs
- Flutter kicks
- Supine toe taps
- Hip bridges
- Wood chops
Back Strengthening Exercises
A strong back and strong core go hand-in-hand.
If you’re working one muscle group, you should balance it out by working the other.
Ignoring your back muscles could lead to an imbalance between your back and your chest and shoulders, resulting in your shoulders rolling forward and your back hunching over.
Back exercises, particularly lower back strengthening exercises, can help you avoid injury, reduce back pain, and improve your posture.
Here are some powerful back exercises for your next workout.
- Lat pulldowns
- Back extensions
- Supermans and their variations
- Bent-over dumbbell rows
- Reverse flies
- Seated rows
- Renegade rows
5 Tips for Making the Most of Your Workout
Now that you know which exercises you should add to your new strength training routine, let’s look at some ways you can make the most of your workout.
- Be consistent. Ideally, you’ll strength train at least 2-3 times per week. In each session, you’ll want to do 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps.
- Start off slowly. It’s better to ease into a new routine to avoid the risk of injury. Plus, you want to be sure that you have the correct form and are working the right muscles before adding on high weights.
- Alternate muscle groups. If you work legs today, skip them next time in favor of chest or arms. Allow your muscles time to recover between strength training sessions, aiming to work each muscle group 2-3 times per week, max.
- Challenge yourself. Once you become comfortable with a set of exercises, shake things up with more weights, higher reps, or by adding in short bursts of cardio. You can also try more challenging variations of basic exercises, such as going from a squat to a squat jump to a banded squat jump.
- Take a probiotic supplement. Probiotics shore up the quantity and quality of the “good” bacteria in your gut. They benefit your overall health, giving you the energy, stamina, and strength you need for successful workouts.
Probiotics are also powerful immune system boosters, keeping you healthy in and out of the gym. For fast, long-lasting results, try our favorite probiotic supplement from Just Thrive.
It’s never too late to start strength training!
The benefits to your body will be noticeable quickly.
And we’re not just talking about stronger muscles. The results of strength training will be apparent in positive changes to your overall mental and physical health.
Just remember to take it slow, start off light, and let your body get used to the moves before advancing to more complex moves.
You’ll be stronger, fitter, and more powerful in no time!
You May Also Like…