Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

USDA Strength Training Guidelines


Strengthening Equipment

Some strengthening equipment is portable, while others are not. Here's the lowdown on what's available to tone and develop your muscles.

Stretch bands. Stretch bands, also called resistance bands, look like giant rubber bands. Buy them in the sporting goods section of a variety store or purchase about four feet of surgical tubing and tie a large loop in each end. Here are some ways to use them to strengthen your muscles:

  • Seated Row: In seated position, wrap band around bottom of feet, holding either end. Pull band back, bending your elbows and pulling to either side of body so the shoulder blades squeeze together. Do not let shoulders creep up. This movement is like rowing a boat and works back muscles.
  • Single leg press: Loop band around just one foot. Bend leg at the knee and lift leg slightly off floor. Press foot into band, straightening at the knee, a little like stomping the accelerator. Continue to bend and straighten, keeping the leg suspended off the floor, until you're finished with the set.
  • Triceps overhead press. Hold the band in one hand, then raise that arm up over your head as if to scratch the back of your neck. Put your other hand behind your back and grab the loose end of the band. Now holding the lower hand in place, extend your other hand over your head to stretch the band up high. (This gets rid of those floppy underarms!)
  • Seated arm curls. Loop the band under your feet, as in the seated row. With your palms up, keep elbows at your side while you do the curls.

Your body. You can't get simpler or more convenient than this! Put your body to work, making it the weight that your muscles need to resist. Here's how:

  • Do modified push-ups, resting on your knees.
  • Do standing push-ups, facing a wall.
  • Slowly lower into a sitting position while leaning against a wall.
  • Do repetitions of abdominal crunches (modified sit-ups), side-lying leg lifts, and squats.
  • Do different kinds of lunges; they're great for building large muscle groups in the lower body. Support yourself with one hand on a chair or wall. Place your right leg about three feet or two strides in front of your left. Keeping your back straight and placing your free hand on your hips, slowly lower your body, keeping your weight evenly distributed between your legs and making sure your right knee doesn't extend beyond your ankle. Push back up into a standing position. Repeat four times and switch legs. You can build up to 10 to 15 lunges on each side.

Medicine ball. A medicine ball is a training tool that serves as a weight. Typically made of synthetic rubber, it is almost like a soccer ball filled with heavy sand. Medicine balls range in weight from 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) to 8 kilograms. They can be used for a complete body workout, providing resistance through a full range of motion. A medicine ball is especially good if you're training for a particular sport and want to practice the pattern of movement in your chosen sport to strengthen the muscles involved. You can do many different types of movements with a medicine ball either standing, sitting or lying down.

From straight-arm throws and torso twists to abdominal curls and double-leg kicks, a 30-minute workout can exercise all your muscle groups. Books on strength conditioning with medicine balls will give you the details you need to safely use this tool.

Expert advice. You'll get the most from strength training if you get some expert advice. A personal trainer can teach you proper form and provide a personalized training program. Even an hour session will go a long way toward improving your technique and maximizing your workout. A low-cost alternative, though not as helpful, is to rent or buy some fitness videos. They will demonstrate proper form, and they'll show you an array of moves that will keep your strength-training workout fresh and ensure that you train all your muscle groups most effectively.

If you want to build and strengthen muscle, it's best to use strength-training and resistance exercises. The USDA strength training guidelines forms a good primer for this type of exercise.

Publications International, Ltd.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.


More to Explore