Improve Your Strength

To strengthen your muscles, you need to lift or push weight. Even very small changes in muscle strength can make a real difference in function. Stronger muscles can make it easier to do everyday things like get up from a chair, climb stairs, carry groceries, open jars, and even play with your grandchildren. Lower-body strength exercises also will improve your balance.

Be sure to try all four types of exercise — endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility.

Safety

  • Talk with your doctor if you are unsure about doing a particular exercise, especially if you’ve had hip or back surgery.

  • Don’t hold your breath during strength exercises. Holding your breath while straining can cause changes in blood pressure. Breathe in slowly through your nose and breathe out slowly through your mouth.

  • Breathe out as you lift or push, and breathe in as you relax.

  • For some exercises, you may want to start alternating arms and work your way up to using both arms at the same time.

  • To prevent injury, don’t jerk or thrust weights. Use smooth, steady movements.

  • Muscle soreness lasting a few days and slight fatigue are normal after muscle-building exercises, at least at first. After doing these exercises for a few weeks, you will probably not be sore after your workout.

How Much, How Often

Try to do strength exercises for all of your major muscle groups on 2 or more days per week for 30-minute sessions each, but don’t exercise the same muscle group on any 2 days in a row.

  • Depending on your condition, you might need to start out using 1- or 2-pound weights or no weight at all.
  • Use a light weight the first week and then gradually add more weight. You need to challenge your muscles to get the most benefit from strength exercises.
  • It should feel somewhere between hard and very hard for you to lift or push the weight. If you can’t lift or push a weight 8 times in a row, it’s too heavy.
  • Take 3 seconds to lift or push a weight into place, hold the position for 1 second, and take another 3 seconds to return to your starting position. Return the weight slowly; don’t let it drop.

Progressing

Gradually increase the amount of weight you use to build strength. Start out with a weight you can lift only 8 times. Use that weight until you can lift it easily 10 to 15 times. When you can do 2 sets of 10 to 15 repetitions easily, add more weight so that, again, you can lift it only 8 times. Repeat until you reach your goal.

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