Dr. Phil Shares: 9 of the Most Effective Strength Training Exercises You Can Do at Home

9 of the Most Effective Strength Training Exercises You Can Do at Home

Benefits of Strength Training Exercises

Sense of accomplishment not enough? The advantages of weight and resistance training offer plenty more reasons to expand your fitness routine.

Burn fat

When you do an intense resistance training program like A Week of Hard Labor or Body Beast, the “afterburn effect” of excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) keeps your metabolism elevated for up to 72 hours afterward. That facilitates the burning of fat long after a workout, compared with lower- and moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise.

Build muscle

Fat loss is just one component of any body transformation. The other is muscular development, which can go just as far in determining how you look. For men, that may mean added size, while for women it will most often mean shape, as they lack the hormonal makeup to gain that kind of mass.

That’s even more important if you’re losing weight — 25 percent of which may be muscle — to dieting and low-intensity cardio. Strength training exercises can help preserve and even build muscle fiber that might otherwise be lost, which is especially crucial for those in their 30s and beyond, when muscle mass naturally decreases.

Boost metabolism

It takes energy to sustain muscle, so the more of it there is, the more calorie-burning capacity you have. That makes your body more metabolically active and efficient, even while at rest.

Strengthen bones

Bones under stress respond not unlike muscles under stress, stimulating the release of osteoblasts that build new bone tissue. An estimated 1.5 million people suffer an osteoporosis-related fracture every year, so resistance training is a natural complement to calcium and vitamin D intake.

Reduce injuries

Strength training builds stronger ligaments and tendons, and promotes more balanced body mechanics, decreasing the likelihood of injury during exercise and in daily life.

9 Essential Strength Training Exercises You Can Do at Home

The following exercises should be part of any rounded resistance program, like the many found on Beachbody On Demand. Incorporate them into the appropriate workouts to ensure proper development of the body’s major muscle groups.

Weightlifting Exercises With Dumbbells

Dumbbell bench press

Target muscles: Chest, as well as the triceps, shoulders

  • Lie on a flat bench holding a pair of dumbbells directly above your chest with your palms facing forward. Your head, upper back, and butt should touch the bench, and your feet should be flat on the floor.
  • Slowly lower the weights to the sides of your chest, keeping your elbows close to your body (not flared).
  • Pause, and then push the weights back up to the starting position.

Dumbbell squat

Target muscles: Quads and glutes, but also hamstrings

  • Stand with your feet hip- to shoulder-width apart, holding a pair of dumbbells at arm’s length by your sides.
  • Keeping your back flat and core braced, push your hips back, bend your knees, and lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  • Pause, then push yourself back up to the starting position.

Bent-over row

Target muscles: Back, as well as the shoulders, biceps, and core

  • Stand with your feet hip- to shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Brace your core, push your hips back, bend your knees slightly, and lower your torso until it’s nearly parallel to the floor.
  • Let the dumbbells hang at arms length with your palms facing back. Engage your shoulder blades to keep your shoulders pulled back (i.e., don’t hunch). This is the starting position.
  • Without moving your torso, and while keeping your chin and elbows tucked and back flat, row the weights to the outsides of your ribcage as you squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  • Pause, and then lower the weights back to the starting position.


Standing dumbbell curl

Target muscles: Biceps

  • Grab a pair of dumbbells and let them hang at arm’s length by your thighs, palms facing forward.
  • Keeping your elbows tucked and your upper arms locked in place, curl the dumbbells as close to your shoulders as you can.
  • Pause, and then slowly lower the weights back to the starting position.

Lying triceps extension

Target muscles: Triceps

  • Lie face up on a bench with your feet flat on the floor, and hold a pair of dumbbells above your chest with your arms straight and your palms facing each other.
  • Without moving your upper arms, bend your elbows and lower the dumbbells to the sides of your head until your forearms dip below parallel to the floor.
  • Pause, and then return to the starting position.

Single-leg calf raise

Target muscles: Calves

  • Hold a dumbbell in your right hand by your side and place the ball of your right foot on an elevated surface with your heel hanging off.
  • Cross your left ankle behind your right, hold onto an immovable object with your left hand for balance, and lower your right heel toward the floor (but don’t touch it).
  • Rise up on the toes of your right foot as high as you can, giving your right calf an extra squeeze at the top.
  • Pause, and then lower yourself back to the starting position. Do equal reps on both sides.

Shoulder press

Target muscles: Shoulders, upper back, and triceps

  • Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart, and hold a pair of dumbbells in front of your shoulders with your elbows tucked and palms facing each other.
  • Press the weights directly above your shoulders until your arms are straight and your biceps are next to your ears.
  • Pause, and then lower the weights back to the starting position.

Strength Exercises Without Equipment


Target muscles: Core

  • Assume a push-up position, but with your weight on your forearms instead of your hands (your elbows should be directly beneath your shoulders).
  • Squeeze your glutes and brace your core (imagine someone is about to punch you in the gut) to lock your body into a straight line from head to heels.
  • Hold for time.

Single-leg elevated-foot hip raise

Target muscles: Glutes, quads, hamstrings, and core

  • Lie face-up on the floor with your arms by your sides, your right foot on a bench (or other immovable object), and your left foot elevated so your thighs are parallel.
  • Squeeze your glutes and push through your right foot, raising your hips until your body forms a straight line from your right knee to your shoulders. Make sure to keep your hips parallel with the floor throughout the movement.
  • Pause, then return to the starting position. Perform equal reps on both legs.


Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health

Dr. Phil Shares: A Beginner’s Guide to Weightlifting

A Beginner’s Guide to Weightlifting

When you decide to add strength training to your workout routine, knowing where to start can be tricky. And once you get going, knowing how to progress can be even trickier. After all, most weight-room newbies are unsure of their strength and, in turn, how to push it to its limits. How heavy of a dumbbell should I choose? How many sets and reps should I do? When should I move up to heavier weights?


How Do You Build Muscle?

Simply put, you get stronger by stressing your muscles, giving them enough time to recover, and then stressing them again. That’s because, every time you place a demand on your body that’s heavier or harder than what it’s used to, you create microscopic tears in the worked muscle tissue. Then, those tears heal, the muscle incorporates new structural and contractile proteins, coming back just slightly stronger and better able to handle even heavier loads. Eventually, the exercise that was once incredibly challenging becomes easy and it’s time to increase the stress so that the process can happen again, and muscle growth continues.

The best way to get started is to pick up a weight that you can perform three sets of 10 reps with each exercise, so you’re lifting the weight 30 times, with a couple minutes of rest time between sets.

How Do I Progress in Weightlifting?

As you get stronger, you have three options regarding how to progress:

  1. First, you can lift the same number of sets and reps and just increase your weight. For example, if after a couple weeks of lifting, you can easily do three sets of 10 reps lifting 10-pound dumbbells, then pick up 15-pounders and do the same program, and then repeat this process.
  2. A second option is to increase sets and decrease reps, such as four sets of six reps. You would choose this option if you want to make big jump in weight, let’s say from 10 to 20 pounds, since you may not be able to lift 20 pounds more than six times. Also, the heavier your weight, the more rest you need between sets in order for your muscles to recover.
  3. A third option is to keep the same weight and do more reps, which may be your option if you only have one weight to work with.

If you’re working out in your home gym and don’t have multiple weights to choose from, you can still progress in a few different ways. First, changing how you’re gripping the weight will engage different muscles. You can also change the pace in which you lift, such as slowing down the eccentric phase of the exercise (i.e. when you lower the dumbbell in a bicep curl). Lastly, you can decrease the amount of time you rest in between sets.

What’s Your Weight-Training Goal: Muscle Strength, Endurance, or Size?

To keep your workouts progressing in the right direction, it’s important to be clear about your goal. Here are recommendations for building muscle strength, endurance, and size, according to the Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, 4th Edition.

  1. Muscle Strength

If you want to increase your muscle strength, you’ll want to perform low repetition sets in which you’re lifting a weight that’s close to your one rep max (1RM), which is the most you can possibly lift in a given exercise with good form. For example, you might perform two to six sets of six or fewer reps, lifting a weight that is 85 percent or more of your IRM, with two to five minutes of rest between sets. If you’re able to lift seven or more reps, then you need to increase your weight.

Note: While determining your 1RM is a great way to understand your strength abilities, any testing should be performed under a certified trainer’s supervision. 

  1. Muscular Endurance

Muscular endurance is the ability of a muscle, or group of muscles, to perform continuously without fatigue. For muscular endurance, decrease your weight, up your number of reps, and reduce the amount of rest between sets. For example, perform two to six sets of six or fewer reps using 85 percent or more of your 1RM, with two to five minutes of rest between sets.

  1. Muscular Size

To build muscle size, or hypertrophy, you’ll want to increase your number of sets, but with heavier weights and lift as many reps as you can while maintaining good form. Again, when you lose proper form, that is where you stop and make an adjustment. For example, perform three to six sets of six to 12 reps, using 67 to 85 percent of your 1RM, with 30 to 90 seconds of rest between sets. With those heavier weights, you’ll need a bit more rest in between sets. Once you hit 12 reps with good form, it’s time to pick up a heavier weight and go back to lifting 6 reps.

Speaking of bulk, let’s get real for a second: for women, there is a stigma around “getting bulky.” While women are slowly starting to embrace weight lifting, others worry that they will turn into the Hulk the second they pick up a dumbbell. The truth is that most women can’t get bulky even if they wanted to since, compared to men, they have roughly 15 to 20 times lower testosterone — a hormone that plays a large part in bulking up. So, while women can enjoy similar gains in muscle strength compared to men with weight training, most won’t notice a significant gain in muscle size due to genetics and hormones. (Plus, if a woman has a lot of fat to lose, she may actually get smaller in her waist and thighs since lifting weights increases metabolism.)

As you experiment with these variables (weights, sets, reps, and rest between sets), remember they are interdependent, so if you change one, you need to adjust the others. For example, if you lift a weight at the upper end of the range (85 percent of your 1RM), you’re going to perform fewer sets of fewer reps and take more rest than if you were to lift a weight at the lower end of the range (67 percent of your 1RM).

When To Pick Up a Heavier Weight

Once you consider a previously challenging workout easy, you are no longer stimulating muscle growth, you’re doing a recovery workout.

So what does “easy” actually feel like? The best way to know when you’re ready to increase exercise stress — whether by lifting heavier weights, adding reps, or decreasing rest time between sets—is to track your workouts, and focus on your form. Stephen Graef, Ph.D., a sports psychologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, suggests taking notes on your sets, reps, rest times, and how you feel for each workout. This way, you’re able to track your progress.

Focusing on your form can help you know when you’re ready for more. You should always use the heaviest weight that will allow you to perform all of your reps with good form. Let’s say you lose proper form at the 8th rep of your bicep curl workout, don’t go any further and jot down a note that you lost form at the 8th rep. When it’s time to do bicep curls again, see if you can perform more than 8 reps with good form. Once you’re able to accomplish all 10 reps with perfect form, and your last few reps of an exercise feel similar to your first few, it’s time to pick up a heavier weight.

Joel Freeman, C.P.T., co-creator of Beachbody’s CORE DE FORCE says, “No matter your strength-training experience or what workout you’re doing, improving your form is a huge marker of progress.” When learning new moves, Freeman recommends looking at yourself in a mirror, or even filming yourself working out, so you can go back to analyze and improve your form.

In his own workouts, Freeman ups the weight based on his ability to get through his last rep without any help from a spotter. As soon as he can do that, he pushes himself even harder. If you don’t have a spotter to keep yourself safe when you’re pushing yourself to your max, many trainers recommend progressing your weight when you can perform two extra reps during your exercise’s last two sets. “If you can do two extra reps in your last set of a given exercise in two consecutive workouts, then you’re ready to progress,” says Trevor Thieme, C.S.C.S., Beachbody Senior Fitness Content Manager. “That’s called the ‘Two for Two Rule’.”

P90X trainer Tony Horton recommends lifting the heaviest you can for six to 10 reps, and when you can do 12 reps at that weight, move to the next heavier weight and go back to six reps.

Again, going up in weight isn’t the only way to progress. Thieme recommends trying out the other options, such as decreasing the rest period, changing the grip of the weight so that different muscles engage, or moving from dumbbells to a barbell.

Are You Pushing Yourself Too Hard?

With all this pushing, it’s important to remember that it’s during the recovery process that your muscle tissues actually become stronger, bigger, and fitter. And there’s a fine line between pushing hard and getting the results you want versus pushing so hard that you actually hamper muscle growth.

So how do you know if you’re overtraining? Physical symptoms include experiencing excessive fatigue, chronic soreness, more frequent injuries, and even illness. Mental symptoms include reduced motivation, irritability, and depression.

Again, this is where tracking your workouts comes in handy. If you lift significantly less weight for two weeks in a row, then you might be pushing too hard and not building muscle properly.

On recovery days, Freeman suggests stretching or foam rolling, or light cardio such as jogging, walking, or hiking. One study showed that 20 minutes of light cardio on the recovery day helped women who lifted weights reduce muscle soreness.

Remember, every person is different. When you’re starting a new weight training regimen, it will take some time to understand the cues your body is telling you. Graef says, “Over time, you’ll learn to listen to your body, and know when to push and when to pull back.”

A great way to get into weight lifting is to sign up for Beachbody On Demand and check out programs that incorporate strength training, such as A WEEK OF HARD LABORBody BeastSHIFT SHOPP90XThe Master’s Hammer and Chisel, and 21 Day Fix.

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Dr. Phil Shares: 10 Reasons Heavier Weight Training is Great For Women

Benefits of Strength Training for Women

Many women believe the only way to lose weight is to do cardiovascular (aerobic exercise), but without adding weight training to their workout routine, they are missing a key component to weight loss.

When you’re weight training, you shouldn’t rely exclusively on the scale to gauge your progress. You can use a body fat tester or a tape measure to track how many inchesyou’re losing. The size of your body will shrink as you shed fat and build muscle, but your weight may not change as dramatically as you expect. Besides, what’s more important, the number on the scale or how you look in your selfies?

If you’re still not convinced that you need to lift weights, here are 10 reasons you should reconsider.

1. Burn More Fat

Researchers at Tufts University found that when overweight women lifted heavy weights twice a week, they lost an average of 14.6 pounds of fat and gained 1.4 pounds of muscle. The control group, women who dieted but didn’t lift weights, lost only 9.2 pounds of fat and gained no muscle. When you do an intense weight-training program such as A WEEK OF HARD LABOR, your metabolism stays elevated and you continue to burn fat for several hours afterward. During regular cardio exercise, you stop burning fat shortly after the workout.

2. Change Your Body Shape

You may think your genes determine how you look. That’s not necessarily true. Weight training can slim you down, create new curves, and help avoid the “middle-age spread”. Just look at the amazing body transformations of the women who’ve completed Body Beast. So, no, you won’t bulk up—women don’t have enough muscle-building hormones to gain a lot of mass like men do. If you keep your diet clean and create a calorie deficit, you’ll burn fat.

3. Boost Your Metabolism

The less muscle you have, the slower your metabolism will be. As women age, they lose muscle at increasing rates, especially after the age of 40. When you diet without doing resistance training, up to 25 percent of the weight loss may be muscle loss. Weight training while dieting can help you preserve and even rebuild muscle fibers. The more lean mass you have, the higher your metabolism will be and the more calories you’ll burn all day long.

4. Get Stronger and More Confident

Lifting weights increases functional fitness, which makes everyday tasks such as carrying children, lifting grocery bags, and picking up heavy suitcases much easier. According to the Mayo Clinic, regular weight training can make you 50 percent stronger in 6 months. Being strong is also empowering. Not only does it improve your physical activities, it builds emotional strength by boosting self-esteem and confidence.

5. Build Strong Bones

It’s been well documented that women need to do weight-bearing exercise to build and maintain bone mass. Just as muscles get stronger and bigger with use, so do bones when they’re made to bear weight. Stronger bones and increased muscle mass also lead to better flexibility and balance, which is especially important for women as they age.

6. Improve Mood

You’ve probably heard that cardio and low-impact exercises such as yoga help improve mood, and weight lifting has the same effect. The endorphins that are released during aerobic activities are also present during resistance training.

7. Improve Sports Fitness

You don’t have to be an athlete to get the sports benefit of weight training. Improved muscle mass and strength will help you in all physical activities, whether it’s bicycling with the family, swimming, golfing, or skiing…whatever sport you enjoy.

8. Reduce Injuries 

Weight lifting improves joint stability and builds stronger ligaments and tendons. Training safely and with proper form can help decrease the likelihood of injuries in your daily life. It can also improve physical function in people with arthritis. A study conducted at the University of Wales in Bangor, United Kingdom, found that mildly disabled participants who lifted weights for 12 weeks increased the frequency and intensity at which they could work, with less pain and increased range of movement.

9. Get Heart Healthy

More than 480,000 women die from cardiovascular disease each year, making it the number-one killer of women over the age of 25. Most people don’t realize that pumping iron can also keep your heart pumping. Lifting weights increases your “good” (HDL) cholesterol and decreases your “bad” (LDL) cholesterol. It also lowers your blood pressure. The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that people who do 30 minutes of weight lifting each week have a 23 percent reduced risk of developing heart disease compared to those who don’t lift weights.

10. Maintain Healthy Blood Sugar Levels

In addition to keeping your ticker strong, weight training can improve glucose utilization (the way your body processes sugar) by as much as 23 percent. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 weeks of strength training can improve glucose metabolism in a way that is comparable to taking medication. The more lean mass you have, the more efficient your body is at removing glucose from the blood.

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health

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