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

  • 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.

  • 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.

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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