Cardio workouts aren’t the only option when you want to burn calories and improve your health. In fact, a 2012 review study published in Current Sports Medicine Reports found that full-body resistance training doesn’t just build muscle and improve body composition. It can also enhance cardiovascular health, reduce the risk of chronic diseases, develop bone density, improve self-esteem, boost cognition and minimize discomfort associated with low back pain and arthritis. Pretty much, it’s a game changer. So, if you’re ready to show yourself just how mentally tough you are, head to your gym’s free weight section.
Landmine squat press
The landmine squat press is a full-body exercise that helps you learn proper squat form by forcing you to keep your chest upright and tall while lowering yourself into the squat, rather than allowing your chest to tilt forward toward the floor. With the added shoulder-press movement at the top of the exercise, you target everything from your legs and glutes to your shoulders and core.
- Stand tall, perpendicular to the barbell affixed to your gym’s landmine attachment, with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart, your toes angled slightly outward and your weight in your heels. Squat down to pick up the end of the barbell with both hands. Return to standing and hold the end of the barbell at your chest, with your elbows bent and your core engaged. This is the starting position.
- Keeping your core braced and the barbell “fixed” to your chest, press your hips back, bend your knees and squat down, lowering your glutes toward the floor. At the lowest point of your squat, your chest should still remain tall, your weight should be on your heels and your knees should be aligned with your toes.
- Press through your heels and return to standing as you extend your knees and hips.
- As you rise, press your arms upward, following the natural arc the landmine creates, extending your elbows to perform a shoulder press with the barbell.
- Bend your elbows and lower the barbell back to your chest before continuing the exercise. Aim to perform two to three sets of 8 to 12 repetitions.
The sumo deadlift is a compound exercise that targets all the major muscle groups of your lower body and core while placing a special emphasis on your hip abductors, the muscles responsible for moving your legs laterally out from your midline.
- Load a barbell with plates, or simply use an unloaded barbell to start. Place the barbell on the ground and stand behind it, facing it with your feet wider than shoulder width apart and your toes angled outward at a roughly 45-degree angle. This is the starting position.
- Engage your core to keep your back straight and in a neutral position. Press your hips back and bend your knees until you’re able to grasp the barbell with both hands.
- In a fluid motion, press through your heels and extend your legs as you powerfully press your hips forward, rising to standing as you lift the barbell from the floor.
- Pause at the top before bending your knees and lowering the barbell back to the floor.
- Continue the exercise. Aim to perform two to three sets of six to eight repetitions, using as much weight as you can while maintaining perfect form.
Lateral box step-overs
Lateral box step-overs are another lower-body compound exercise that forces you to move laterally up and over a plyometric box. Since most exercises you perform on a day-to-day basis — such as walking, running and cycling — don’t use lateral motions, this exercise helps target often-neglected hip abductors and adductors, more commonly known as your inner and outer thighs.
- Stand to the left of a plyometric box or a sturdy bench.
- Engage your core and step up onto the box, firmly planting your right foot toward the center of the box.
- Press through the heel of your right foot, extending your right knee as you stand, bringing your left foot to meet your right foot on top of the box.
- Again, leading with your right foot, carefully step down to the right of the box.
- Reverse the movement and step up and over the box, this time leading with your left foot. When you return to the starting location, you’ve completed a single repetition.
- Perform three sets of 12 to 15 repetitions.
Single-leg cable chest press
The single-leg cable chest press challenges your core while also targeting your chest, triceps and shoulders. Find a cable pulley machine at your gym and set the pulleys so they’re positioned at chest height, affixing a single-handle attachment to each carabiner before starting the exercise.
- Grasp the cable handles in both hands and stand facing away from the pulley machine with your feet shoulder width apart, your knees slightly bent, your core engaged and your hands positioned at your shoulders with your elbows bent. Step one foot behind you, placing your toes lightly on the ground, but without bearing weight. Bend your front knee slightly to help anchor your position.
- From here, brace your abdominals and hips to maintain your position and press your arms straight out in front of your chest, extending your elbows fully.
- Pause, then bend your elbows, returning your hands to your shoulders in a controlled, steady motion.
- Perform three sets of 10 to 12 repetitions.
Banded pull-ups are designed to make standard pull-ups accessible to those who may not be ready to perform a full pull-up on their own. To perform the exercise, you’ll need a heavy-duty looped resistance band and a pull-up bar. Most gyms have both items readily available.
- Throw one end of the looped band over a pull-up bar, then pull the far-side loop through the side closest to you and pull it tight, securing the resistance band to the pull-up bar.
- Stretch the band downward until you’re able to fit your right knee through the opening. Adjust the band so that your knee is securely in place. You may need to stand on top of a bench or a plyo box to do this.
- Reach up and grasp the pull-up bar with both hands, positioning your hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Allow your body to hang from the bar with your elbows fully extended. This is the starting position.
- Engage your core and, using the resistance band as assistance, use your back, biceps and abdominals to pull your body toward the bar as you bend your elbows. Continue pulling yourself up until your chin clears the bar.
- Slowly and steadily lower yourself back to the starting position.
- Perform three sets, doing as many reps as you can during each set.
Seated cable rows
Seated cable rows are a classic way to target the posterior chain of your body, focusing on the muscles of your back, including your traps, lats, erector spinae and rear delts. Choose any cable attachment that features two handles and attach it to the machine’s carabiner before starting.
- Sit on the cable row’s seat and place your feet on the provided rests, with your knees bent and your butt toward the front of the seat. Engage your core, and tip forward from the hips to grasp the attachment’s handles. Press through your heels and extend your hips and knees slightly to come to an upright seated position without placing any strain on your back. Your arms should be fully extended.
- Brace your core, roll your shoulders back and draw your scapulas down and in toward your midline as you lean back slightly. This is the starting position.
- Keeping your torso and lower body fixed in place, bend your elbows and pull the cable attachment to your torso as you squeeze your shoulder blades together.
- Slowly extend your elbows to return to the starting position.
- Perform two to three sets of eight to 12 repetitions.
The Arnold press is named after its early advocate, Arnold Schwarzenegger. It combines the more common shoulder press with a rotation to better engage the front portion of the deltoid muscle when working your shoulders. If you’re familiar with a standard shoulder press, you may want to reduce the weight slightly before starting the exercise, as this tends to be a more challenging variation.
- Sit tall on a bench with perfect posture and a dumbbell in each hand. Your feet should be flat on the floor, with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. At the starting position, your elbows should be bent to 90 degrees and raised to shoulder height, with your palms facing you directly in front of your face.
- To initiate the exercise, rotate your shoulders outward until your palms are facing away from you.
- Press your arms straight up over your head as you extend your elbows fully.
- Lower the dumbbells carefully until your elbows are bent at 90 degrees, your palms facing away from you.
- Maintaining that 90-degree angle, draw your elbows back toward your midline to return to the starting position.
- Perform two to three sets of 8 to 12 reps.