5 Anytime Moves to Increase Strength and Wellness
Strength training isn’t just for bodybuilders and professional athletes. It’s for everyone, including you. The benefits of strength training (aka resistance training) for men and women of all ages are virtually endless:
It will help you function better, with less risk of injury, in any physical activity you do, whether that’s a recreational sport, doing work around the house, or playing with your kids or grandkids.
It can help you achieve, or maintain, a healthy body weight, as the muscle built from resistance training is metabolically active tissue that will have you burning calories even at rest.
Strength training as little as once or twice a week has been shown to decrease overall mortality risk, and science is beginning to show that a resistance training workout might even benefit your gut bacteria.1 2
In other words, being stronger equates to improved quality of life and better overall health and wellness — and the following five exercises will help you gain strength in all major muscles, including lower body, upper body, and core. Best of all, every move can be done at home with a bare minimum of equipment (resistance bands or light dumbbells) or body weight only.
To accommodate varying fitness levels and at-home setups, listed for each exercise is an equipment alternative and variations for making the move easier or more challenging. You’ll also see an example of how to incorporate the movements into a full-body resistance training workout.
Add these moves into your fitness routine, in addition to three or more days of aerobic training per week, and you’ll feel better, stronger, and healthier before you know it!
5 At-Home Exercises for Full-Body Strength
Muscles Worked: Glutes, thighs, hamstrings, core
How to Do It: Stand with your feet hip- to shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Keeping your core tight and torso upright, push your hips back and bend your knees to lower into a squat. Keep your weight over the middle of your feet, and keep your arms in front of you (extended or crossed over your chest) to counterbalance. When your thighs reach parallel with the floor, extend your hips and knees to return to the standing position. Don’t lock out your knees at the top.
Make it Easier: Place a chair behind you and squat down to it on each rep. This will limit your range of motion somewhat and allow you to rest at the bottom of the squat if needed.
Make it More Challenging: Holding a dumbbell makes the exercise more difficult. To add a challenge to the bodyweight squat, pause for 2 to 5 seconds at the bottom of each rep.
Equipment Options: Squats be done without or with added resistance — for example, holding a light dumbbell in both hands below your chin (goblet squat). If you don’t have a dumbbell at home, you can hold an object like a gallon water jug in the same position.
Bentover Resistance Row
Muscles Worked: Upper back, middle back, biceps
How to Do It: Stand in a split stance with one foot forward and one foot back. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and bend at the waist, keeping your back and neck in neutral and and eyes looking forward and down. Start with your arms extended out in front of you, standing upright with your chest out. Contract your back muscles and bend your arms to pull the dumbbells to your midsection. Focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together at the top. Slowly return to the start position.
Make it Easier: Decrease resistance by either using lighter weights or bracing yourself on a stead support, or stepping closer to the anchor point mid-set to reduce tension.
Make it More Challenging: Do rows one arm at a time (keeping your torso pointed forward throughout) for more core involvement and to promote balanced strength from side to side in your upper back.
Equipment Options: Rows can also be done with a variety of equipment, such as resistance bands or barbells or kettlebells if you don’t have dumbbells — a great you can do it anywhere option is either a resistance band row with one arm at a time with one hand and knee supported on chairs or a bench.
Muscles Worked: Chest, shoulders, triceps
How to Do It: Assume a push-up position with your toes on the floor, hands shoulder-width apart, arms extended, and your body in a straight line from head to toes. Bend your elbows to lower yourself down to the floor. When your chest touches the floor, press yourself back up to the start position without letting your elbows lock out at the top. Keep your shoulders pulled back throughout the movement to maintain proper posture.
Make it Easier: Drop knees down to the floor, widen your stance, or elevate your hands using a step or other raised surface while your knees remain on the floor.
Make it More Challenging: Lift one leg and make it a balance push-up.
Equipment Options: To mimic the upper body movement with a resistance band or weights, perform a press while on the floor on your back or on a bench and mimic the motion by performing the chest press movement with dumbbells or a weighted bar.
Muscles Worked: Shoulders, triceps, core
How to Do It: Sit or stand holding dumbbells in both hands balanced just outside your shoulders with your elbows bent and palms facing forward. Keeping your core tight, press the weights straight up overhead until your elbows are fully extended but not locked out. Slowly lower back to the start position.
Make it Easier: Use the lightest resistance band possible if you’re a beginner or lighter weights
Make it More Challenging: Do the movement one arm at a time, with your non-working hand at your side, for more core involvement.
Equipment Options: Shoulder presses can also be performed with a pair of light dumbbells, kettlebells, or a weighted bar.
Muscles Worked: Core
How to Do It: On a padded surface on the floor, face sideways with one hand and the sides of your feet being the only contact points with the floor. Keep your body in a straight line, not letting your hips drop to the floor, by tightening your core muscles. Hold this rigid side plank position for a duration of time (anywhere from 10 to 60 seconds, depending on your fitness level), then repeat on the other side.
Make it Easier: Bend at the knees and use lower legs as a base, or place one foot down for support, instead of balancing on your feet.
Make it More Challenging: Do the side plank with your hand on the floor and arm fully extended. You can also progress to add a dumbell to add weight and resistance.
Equipment Options: To keep the movement comfortable on your arm, do side planks on a yoga or exercise mat, or at the very least, place a folded towel underneath your forearm.
At-Home Full-Body Workout
The above movements can done in a fuller workout to train all of the major muscles in the body. Do 2 to 3 sets per exercise for 10 to 15 reps (except on side planks, which are done for time). As you build strength, add resistance/difficulty to the movements. You can either do all sets of one exercise before moving to the next or perform the exercises as a circuit, doing one set of each move consecutively and completing the circuit 2 or 3 times. However you choose to do it, the workout is designed to give you total body strength benefits in 15 to 20 minutes, or less!
Below is what a circuit routine could look like (rep counts will vary). Perform this workout 2 to 3 times per week, rotating in different variations of these basic movements to keep the routine fresh. Strength workouts can be done on either the same day as aerobic (cardio) exercise or on different days.
Bodyweight Squat 15
Knee Push-Up 10
Resistance Band Row 15
Resistance Band Shoulder Press 15
Side Plank 30 sec. per side
Take as much rest as you need between movements. As you get better conditioned, you should be able to move from one exercise to the next with little to no rest. Rest 1-2 minutes after the last exercise before repeating the circuit.
1 Coleman, C. et al. (2022). [Study of strength exercises and mortality]. British Journal of Sports Medicine. Bjsm.bmj.com.
2 Angheleanu, R. (2022). [Exercise connection to gut microbiome]. BBC Future. bbc.com/future.