Six Steps to a Minimalist Workout
May 8, 2000 -- So you're committed to the idea of strength training, but
don't know where to start? With these six exercises, you can work all of the
body's major muscle groups at home or at the gym. All you need are two or three
sets or dumbbells (try 5-, 8-, or 10-pound weights) and a chair.
A few key tips:
- Warm up for five minutes with light cardiovascular exercise, such as brisk
walking and arm circles, before lifting.
- Perform one set of 8 to 12 repetitions. Choose weights heavy enough so that
the last rep is a real struggle (but not so much of one that you're forced to
contort your body). You may need to use a different amount of weight for each
exercise. With some of the moves, your body weight may be enough, so you might
not need to add a dumbbell.
- Perform each exercise with controlled movements, taking a full two seconds
to get to the extreme position and a full two seconds to return to the starting
position. Rely on muscle power, not momentum.
- Rest no more than 30 seconds between exercises.
- Modified Push-Up (Works the chest, triceps, and front of the shoulder)
Kneel with your ankles crossed, arms straight, palms on the floor a bit to the
side and in front of your shoulders, and your face to the floor. Bend your
elbows and lower your body until your upper arms are parallel to the floor.
Keep your abs tight so your back doesn't sag. Push back up.
- One-Arm Row (Strengthens the back, biceps, and back of the shoulder) Place
a chair in front of you with its back to the left, out of the way. Holding a
dumbbell in your right hand, stand with your right foot on the floor and your
left knee resting on the seat of the chair. Lean forward and place your left
hand on the seat in front of your left knee. Keep your back straight and
parallel to the floor and your right knee slightly bent. Your right arm should
hang straight down. Bend your elbow, lifting the dumbbell until your elbow is
higher than your back and your hand brushes against your waist. Lower the
weight slowly back down. After completing the reps with your right arm, switch
- Dumbbell Shoulder Press (Works the front and middle shoulders) Holding a
dumbbell in each hand, stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly
bent, and abs tucked in. Raise your upper arms to shoulder height so that the
dumbbells are at ear level. Push the dumbbells up and in until the ends of the
weights are nearly touching directly over your head. Then lower the dumbbells
back to ear level.
- Squat (Works the buttocks, quadriceps, and hamstrings) Hold a dumbbell in
each hand or place your hands on your hips or on the tops of your thighs. Stand
up tall with your abs tight, feet hip-width apart, and your weight slightly
back on your heels. Sit back and down, as if you're sitting into a chair. Don't
squat any lower than the point at which your thighs are parallel to the floor,
and don't let your knees shoot out in front of your toes. Stand back up.
- Lunge (Works the buttocks, quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves) Hold a
dumbbell in each hand or place your hands on your hips. Stand tall with your
abs tight, feet hip-width apart, and weight back on your heels. Lift your right
toe slightly and, leading with your heel, step your right foot forward about a
stride's length. As your foot touches the floor, bend both knees until your
right thigh is parallel to the floor and your left thigh is perpendicular to
it. Your left heel will lift off the floor. Press off the ball of your right
foot and step back to the standing position.
- Crunch (Works the abdominals) Lie on your back with your knees bent and
feet flat on the floor hip-width apart. Place your hands behind your head so
your thumbs are behind your ears, without lacing your fingers together. Hold
your elbows out to the sides but rounded slightly in. Tilt your chin slightly
toward your chest and tighten your abs. Curl up and forward so that your head,
neck, and shoulder blades lift off the floor. Hold for a moment, and then lower
slowly back down.
Suzanne Schlosberg, a freelance writer based in Santa
Monica, Calif., is author of The Ultimate Workout Log, second edition
(Houghton Mifflin 1999), and co-author of Fitness for Dummies, second
edition (IDG Books Worldwide 2000).