Perform these two strength training workouts each week, and you'll stay strong for life

By Mary Anderson
June 16, 2020
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While chronological aging is counted by your birthdays, biological aging is different, says Aaron Baggish, M.D., the director of the Cardiovascular Performance Program at Massachusetts General Hospital. “It’s measured by the health and stamina of the cardiovascular system, the pulmonary system, and all the different organs that combine to let us do exercise,” says Dr. Baggish.

How do you create a workout routine that checks all the boxes? Here's the deal.

One way to aim to be biologically younger is by improving your VO2 max—the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use per minute—which typically stays stable until age 35 or 40. “To really prevent declines in it, the body needs to be pushed close to its peak performance, usually once or twice a week,” he says. So add HIIT—sprintervals, fast-paced circuits—to your regular weekly cardio.

Then, you need to build strength. The average adult loses 3 to 8 percent of muscle each decade after age 30, according to the latest data. The good news is that strength training can reverse that loss at any age. A renowned study from Tufts University showed that women in their 50s and 60s who did a full-body strength workout twice a week effectively made their bodies 15 to 20 years younger in one year, increasing muscle mass by nearly three pounds and showing strength gains of 35 to 76 percent. Your best bet is to get ahead of the curve. (This is just one of many major benefits of strength training.)

“Some data suggests that peak muscle strength in early life is a very strong predictor of preserved strength later in life,” says Roger Fielding, Ph.D., a lead scientist at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts. Not only that, but among the numerous studies involving younger women and resistance training, he says, “the improvement in muscle mass is probably a bit larger than it is in older women.”

Your perfect strength routine is right here: Anthony Crouchelli, a strength and conditioning coach at Performix House in New York, to put together a two-day strength training workout to work all your major muscles and then some.

“These workouts revolve around the five basic movements: squat, hinge, push, pull, and core stability,” says Crouchelli. (For example, the hinge motion involves doing a hip bridge on the floor.) These will give your body a strong foundation, he promises.

2-Day Strength Training Workouts

How it works: Crouchelli provides two different strength workouts here. Do them both weekly (on separate days) to build strength that lasts.

You'll need: Enough space to do a plank and hand weights of some kind—dumbells, water bottles, soup cans, or other household items.

Day 1 Strength Workout

Goblet Squat

A. Start standing with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, holding a weight between hands in front of the chest.

B. Hinge at hips to squat down, pausing when thighs are parallel to the ground.

C. Press through mid-foot to return to start, squeezing glutes at the top.

Do 3 sets of 8 reps, resting for 60 seconds between sets.

Glue Bridge

A. Lie face-up with feet flat on the floor, knees pointed toward the ceiling, with weight resting horizontally across hips.

B. Press into feet to lift hips up toward the ceiling, squeezing glutes and forming a straight line from shoulders to knees.

C. Lower hips to the ground to return to start.

Do 3 sets of 8 reps, resting for 90 seconds between sets.

Single-Arm Shoulder Press

A. Start standing with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, a weight in the right hand racked at shoulder height.

B. Slightly bend knees and hinge at hips to come into a quarter squat, then immediately squeeze glutes to stand up, pressing weight overhead.

C. Slowly lower the weight to shoulder to return to start.

Do 3 sets of 8 reps, resting for 60 seconds between sets. Switch sides; repeat.

Dead Bug

A. Lie face-up on the floor with knees in a tabletop position and arms extended toward the ceiling directly over shoulders, holding a weight in each hand.

B. Keeping core engaged and lower back pressed into the floor, extend the right leg and lower heel to hover one inch off the floor. Simultaneously, lower the left arm to hover just off the floor, bicep by ear.

C. Lift right leg and left arm to return to start, then repeat with the opposite arm and leg. That's 1 rep. Continue alternating.

Do 3 sets of 10 reps, resting for 60 seconds between sets.

Reverse Lunge with Knee Drive

A. Start standing with feet together.

B. Do a reverse lunge, stepping back with the right leg and lowering until both knees for 90-degree angles, right knee hovering just off the floor.

C. Press into the left leg to stand, driving the right knee up to hip height.

Do 3 sets of 10 reps, resting for 60 seconds between sets. Switch sides; repeat.

Iso Squat Row

A. Stand with feet hip-width apart, a weight in each hand in front of thighs. Hinge at the hips with knees softly bent until torso is at about 45-degrees with weights hanging directly below shoulders to start.

B. Holding this position, rowing the weights up to ribs, keeping elbow in and back flat.

C. Lower the weight to return to start.

Do 3 sets of 8 reps, resting for 90 seconds between sets.

Day 2 Strength Workout

Sumo Squat 

A. Start standing with feet wider than hip-width apart, toes pointed out at about 45 degrees, holding a weight in each hand racked in front of shoulders.

B. Keeping knees pressed out, hinge at the hips and bend knees to lower into a sumo squat until thighs are parallel to the floor.

C. Press into mid-foot to stand and return to start.

Do 3 sets of 8 reps, resting for 60 seconds between sets.

Good Morning

A. Start standing with feet about hip-width apart, holding a weight behind head on the upper back.

B. With knees softly bent, hinge at the hips with a flat back, shooting hips back and lowering torso until it's about parallel to the floor.

C. Squeeze glutes to lift torso back up and return to start, keeping back flat, core engaged, and shoulders back and down.

Do 3 sets of 8 reps, resting for 90 seconds between sets.

Chest Press to Rotate

A. Start lying face-up on the floor with feet flat on the floor and knees pointed toward the ceiling. Hold a weight in each hand over chest, palms facing feet.

B. Press the weights above chest so hands stack right over shoulders, turning palms to face in towards each other at the top.

C. Lower weights back tp chest height, rotating palms to face feet to return to start.

Do 3 sets of 8 reps, resting for 90 seconds between sets.

Single-Arm Row

A. Start in a lunge position with the right foot forward, right hand on right thigh, and left leg extended backward, straight but not locked. Hold a weight in the left hand directly below left shoulder, palm facing in, torso hinged forward at about 45 degrees.

B. Keeping shoulder back and down, engage the upper back muscles to row the left hand up to the left ribs, keeping elbow in tight.

C. Lower the weight back to start.

Do 3 sets of 8 reps, resting for 90 seconds between sets. Switch sides; repeat.

Kneeling DB Woodchopper

A. Start half kneeling with the left foot forward, right knee on the floor. Hold a weight horizontally between both hands in front of hips.

B. Keeping core engaged, rotate torso to the left and raise the weight overhead and to the left.

C. Lower the weight across the body to the outside of the right hip.

Do 3 sets of 10 reps, resting for 60 seconds between sets. Switch sides; repeat.

Frogger to Squat Jump

A. Start standing with feet hip-width apart.

B. Bend at the knees to place hands on the floor in front of feet. Jump feet back to a high plank position.

C. Immediately jump feet up outside of hands to land in a squat, stand up, and jump.

D. Land softly and slower into a squat to place hands on the floor to behind the next rep.

Do 3 sets of 10 reps, resting for 60 seconds between sets

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