Follow these exercises to improve your overall strength and achieve optimal muscle tone
Photographer: Beatriz da Costa
To maintain your muscles, aim for 20 minutes of strength-training exercises two to three times a week -- with at least one day off in between workouts so your muscles have time to rest, recover, and grow.
Liz Neporent, an exercise physiologist and the president of Wellness 360, a New York City-based corporate-wellness-consulting company, suggests the following seven exercises, which work most of the major muscles in your body.
Do one to three sets of 8 to 15 repetitions of the exercises, resting no more than 45 seconds between sets to keep the workout challenging. If you haven't used weights before or if you're out of shape, start with light weights (when they're called for) of two to five pounds and do fewer sets.
Works: Buttocks and thighs
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, weight slightly back on your heels, hands on your hips. Pull your abdominals in, standing up tall with square shoulders and a lifted chest.
- Sit back and down, as if there's a chair directly behind you. Lower as far as you can without leaning your upper body more than a few inches forward. Don't allow your knees to stick out past your toes.
- Straighten your legs and stand back up. Be careful not to lock your knees at the top of the movement.
Works: Upper and middle back and shoulders
- Stand to the left of a chair, feet hip-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand with your palm facing in. Pull your abdominals in and bend forward from the hips so your back has a slight arch and you are roughly parallel to the floor, knees slightly bent. Put your left hand on the chair's seat for balance. Tilt your chin toward your chest so your neck is in line with the rest of your spine. Your right hand will be in front of your right shin.
- Pull your right arm up along the side of your body until your elbow points to the ceiling and your hand brushes against your waist.
- Slowly lower the weight back down. Complete the reps, then switch sides.
Works: Chest, abdominals, shoulders and arms
- Lie on your stomach, knees bent and ankles crossed. Place your palms on the floor a bit to the side and in front of your shoulders. Tuck your chin a few inches into your chest so your forehead faces the floor.
- Straighten your arms and lift your body so you are balanced on your palms and knees, abdominals tight. Be careful not to lock your elbows.
- Bend your elbows and lower your entire body at once. Rather than trying to touch your chest to the floor, lower just until your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Push back up.
Works: Shoulders and arms
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand and sit up tall on a chair that has firm back support. Place your feet on the floor, hip-width apart. Pull your abdominals in so there is a slight gap between the small of your back and the back of the chair.
- With palms forward, bend the elbows and raise the dumbbells up so they are level with your ears. Elbows should be at or just below shoulder height.
- Straighten arms up over your head, without locking elbows, then slowly lower to start.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand and stand with your feet hip-width apart. Let your arms hang down at your sides with your palms facing in. Pull your abdominals in, stand tall, and keep your knees relaxed.
- Curl your right arm up, fist close to your shoulder, twisting your palm so that it faces the front of your shoulder at the top of the movement. Slowly lower the dumbbell back down, then repeat with your left arm. Continue alternating until you've completed the set. (One rep consists of a bicep curl with each arm.)
- Stand to the left of a chair. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand, feet hip-width apart. Lean forward at the hips until your upper body is at a 45-degree angle to the floor. Place your free hand on top of the chair for support. Bend your right elbow so that your upper arm is parallel to the floor, your forearm perpendicular to it, and your palm facing in. Keep your elbow close to your waist. Pull your abdominals in and don't lock your knees.
- Keeping your upper arm still, straighten your arm behind you until the end of the dumbbell is pointing down. Slowly bend your arm to lower the weight for one rep. When you've completed the set, repeat with your left arm.
Works: Abdominals, shoulders, chest, lower back, buttocks, thighs
- Lie on the floor, hands clasped in front of you roughly under your forehead, toes tucked under.
- Press up to balance on your forearms and toes. Pull your abs in so your lower back does not sag and your hips do not drop.
- Focus on keeping your torso straight and your abs pulled in to support you. Hold for 10 counts.