Five exercises that will guarantee you have the strength to adventure all weekend, well into your eighties
If youre willing to buy a kettlebell, some dumbbells, and a pull-up bar, you dont even need to leave your home to do this minimalist workout.
When you buy something using the retail links in our stories, we may earn a small commission.Outsidedoes not accept money for editorial gear reviews.Read moreabout our policy.
Like most athletes who would rather be outdoors running, riding, swimming, or hiking, I dont set aside much time for the gym. Yet I fully realize the importance of building general strength and mobilitynot just to support my outdoor activities, but also for everyday health and fitness. Id like to be able to unload groceries, haul suitcases up and down stairs, and bend over to put on my shoes well into my eighties. That means I have to go to the gym a few days a week. But when Im there, I try to focus solely on the essentials. (If youre willing to buy a kettlebell, some dumbbells, and a pull-up bar, you dont even need to leave your home.)
Thinking I might be on tosomething goodbut far from sureI recently worked up the courage to put my 35-to-40-minuteroutine to the ultimate test: Twitter.
The response was overwhelmingly positive, and a handful of expertsliked or retweeted the post. I wanted to learn more about why they agreed, so I reached out to some of the best in the business for details.
What you have designed is an effective minimalist workout that travels well, easily adapted to many different environments with minimum equipment necessary, saysVern Gambetta, a veteran strength coach who works with numerous world champion athletes and professional sports teams.
Simple beats optimal, according toBrett Bartholomew, a strength and conditioning coach for NFL football players and the author ofConscious Coaching. Habits work. Consistency works. The simpler something is, the more indelible it becomes.
This workout hits four major basic movements: push, pull, squat, and hinge, commentsMichael Lord, a sports chiropractor who treats and trains elite athletes in Northern California. It also uses full ranges of motions, so its accomplishing mobility work within a strength routine.
Heres a closer look at the routine and some additional insight from the pros. Lord recommends going through this workout at least twice a week, starting by doing three sets of each exercise (with one to two minutes of rest in between) before moving to the next. As for how many reps you should do in each set, Lord says to pick a number that will leave you fatigued by the end of the last set, but not so tired that your form is falling apart. For the exercises that involve dumbbells, select a weight that will put you in the six-to-12-rep range, he says.
As you get stronger, increase the weight or up the reps. According to Bartholomew, doing so will help promote continuous adaptation. If you want to add an aerobic boost to the workout, Gambetta suggests either adding 30 seconds of rope jumping or running in place between each exercise or making the workout a circuit. (In other words: Rather than doing three consecutive sets of each exercise with prolonged rest between each set, do three rounds, going from one exercise to the next, with only ten to 15 seconds of rest.)
Grip the bar with your palms facing out and hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Pull yourself up so your chin is above the bar. Hold for one second. Then extend all the way down so your arms are straight and elbows are locked. Throughout the movement, focus on keeping your core taut. Youll know youre achieving this because your legs wont be swinging around. Pull-ups are foundational, akin to eating your fruits and vegetables, says Lord. They include major muscles of the shoulders, upper back, and torsoand train postural strength and core stability as much as the shoulders when performed properly.
Stand with your legs slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, feet pointing slightly out. Hold a kettlebell by the horns, or a dumbbell with palms facing up, close to your chest. Squat down, keeping your heels on the ground. At the lowest point, your butt should be parallel to or just below your knees. Then push up to a standing positioning, locking your knees at the top. This movement carries a low risk of injury and helps keep your body in alignment, says Bartholomew. Since the weight is held close to your chest, not only is it a great tactile reminder to keep proper posture while squatting, but it also allows you to easily put the weight down if fatigued.
Begin with your chest down and palms pressing into the ground, thumbs at or a little outside of your nipples. Press up, locking your elbows at the top. Lower your back all the way down, so your chest hovers just a centimeter or two off the ground. Press up. Repeat. Be sure to tuck in your stomach and keep your core tight throughout the movementso you have minimal arch in your spine. It seems simple, but when you break it down, a push-up is a great expression of core stability and connecting the upper and lower body, says Lord. A push-up is not only about strengthening your shoulders and chest, but also about strengthening your core; its like a dynamic plank.
Stand straight, toes pointing forward, feet about six inches apart. If youre using dumbbells to increase the challenge, hold an equal weight in each hand at your sides, arms straight. Step forward with either foot so your knee is above your ankle. Push through the heel of the forward leg to return to an upright standing positioning. Repeat, this time stepping down with the opposite leg. Lunges target multiple muscle groups and transfer to many movements in daily life, says Bartholomew. You can also experiment with lateral lunges. Its the same idea as a straight lunge, only you hold a single dumbbell at your chest and step out horizontally, lunging from side to side. This takes you out of straight-line movements, working other muscle groups that are often neglected by runners and cyclists.
Stand on one leg, keeping your knee slightly bent. If youre using dumbbells, hold them on the same side as the leg youre standing on. Bend forward at the hip, extending your free leg straight behind you for balance. Continue lowering until your chest is parallel with the ground, dumbbell almost touching the floor. Then press back to an upright position. This exercise brings it home as it combines the challenges of single-leg stability, lower-body mobility, strength, and posture, says Lord.
Brad Stulberg (@Bstulberg) writesOutsides Science of Performance column and is the author of the new bookPeak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success.
To inspire active participation in the world outside through award-winning coverage of the sports, people, places, adventure, discoveries, health and fitness, gear and apparel, trends and events that make up an active lifestyle.