In a Middle-Aged Slump? These 5 Strength Exercises Are Life-Changing
Everyone feels stuck in a rut sometimes. Whether you're tired of your job, uninspired in your personal life, or lacking the motivation to go to the gym, we've all been there. But what if we told you that the remedy to conquering mid-life apathy could be found in strength training? Even if you're already a passionate gymgoer who trains six days a week, mixing up your fitness routine with these strength-building exercises can help lift you up from your middle-aged slump and breathe new life into your workouts.
People of any age, gender, or fitness level can benefit from strength training. Besides helping to build lean muscle mass and get your body beach-ready, research shows that strength training helps prevent sarcopenia (the natural loss of muscle mass and function that occurs with aging). Plus, boosting your strength can extend your lifespan by reducing your risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
We chatted with Lance Johnson, CPT, Life Time personal trainer and ARORA coach, who shares five life-changing strength exercises to help you push through that middle-aged slump. Keep reading to find out what they are, along with detailed step-by-step instructions. Then, when you're through, check out 7 Best Exercises for Men to Gain Muscle Without Equipment.
Hex Bar Deadlift
Deadlifts are an excellent exercise for building overall strength. This compound movement strengthens your posterior chain (backside), which includes your back, glutes, hamstrings, and quads. Plus, many deadlift variations exist beyond using a hex bar, including barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, and resistance bands.
"Using a hex bar loaded with plates, step into the center of the bar. Then, squat down and grab the handles at your side," instructs Johnson. "Be sure to lock your shoulder blades back and tighten your core before driving your feet into the ground and pulling the bar up to a standing position. Then, lower the bar back to the ground."
Do three sets of 10 reps with one minute rest in between. If you don't have a hex bar on hand, you can use a pair of dumbbells hanging at your side.
Dumbbell Goblet Squat
Squats are the most effective leg exercise for sculpting a toned butt and building lower body strength. That's because they have a ton of variations and target the glutes, which are the biggest muscle group in the human body, according to the experts at Healthline.
"Hold a dumbbell at your chest while keeping your core tight, shoulders, and feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart with [toes] pointed out," says Johnson. "Drive your hips back and down as you get into a squat position. Next, try to get your thighs parallel to the ground and drive your feet into the floor and back up into a standing position."
Perform three sets of 10 reps with one minute rest in between. If using a dumbbell is tricky, use bodyweight only until your strength increases.
Lat pulldowns and pull-ups are among the most effective strength exercises for building upper body strength and carving a chiseled back. These compound exercises work your lats (the biggest muscles in your back), delts (shoulders), and biceps for a full upper body look.
"If you have a cable pulldown machine, grab onto the bar and sit on the seat. Looking up at the top pulley, you will slightly lean back, pull the bar under the chin to your collarbone, and then return to the starting position. If you don't have a cable machine, you can find any bar in the air and grab onto it. Looking up at the bar, you will pull your chest up to the bar till your chin is over the bar," explains Johnson.
Do three sets of 10 reps for pulldowns and three sets of as many reps as possible for pull-ups.
Dumbbell Bench Press
Another effective compound movement, the dumbbell bench press is a fantastic bench press variation that will add size and strength to your chest, triceps, and shoulders.
"Grab a pair of dumbbells and lie flat on a bench," Johnson instructs. "Keep your shoulders at a 45-degree angle at the bottom. Next, drive your feet into the floor and your back into the bench, and press the dumbbells up over your chest. Then slowly lower them back down, keeping the upper arm at a 45-degree angle to the body."
Perform three sets of 15 reps. Do pushups in a higher rep range if you don't have dumbbells.
To balance out this list of life-changing full-body strength exercises, the plank is a classic exercise that will strengthen your core, including those ab muscles.
"Get into a push-up position and hold for as long as possible. Work on keeping your belly button pulled up to the spine, squeeze your glutes, and keep your body in a straight line from feet to head," says Johnson.
Try to hold for at least one minute. The longer the better!