Strength training at home

You don’t need to go to the gym to get a great strength training workout.  If you are pressed for time, you can use some dumbbells and get it done at home in about 30 minutes. I bought a book called “The Men’s Health Home Workout Bible” to put together a workout for my husband, who I’ve been trying to get to strength train forever… Anyway, I haven’t been quite successful in getting him to commit to strength training workouts twice a week, but I learned a lot that I now use for MYSELF.  Most of the basic exercises in this book can be applied for men and women.  Below is a list of the exercises I do for each muscle group.  I don’t do them ALL in one session – I pick one or two in each group.


  • Push-ups : I do the normal variety (off the knees), which challenges me.  However, you can lots of other variations if this is too easy (stack your legs, elevated push-ups, staggered hands, etc)

  • Bench press : you can do these on a bench or on a ball.

  • Fly with dumbbells : again, you can do these on a bench or on a ball.

Upper Back

  • One arm row : You can do these with your elbow in or elbow out.

  • Reverse fly : you do these lying face down on a bench or ball.

  • Pullovers : You can do these with a bar or dumbbells


  • Basic squat : You can use heavy dumbbells or a bar

  • Lunges : You can do stationary lunges, alternating lunges, or walking lunges… they are all good!

  • One leg squats

  • Sumo squats : This works your inner thighs.

  • Reverse lunges : Focuses more heavily on your hamstrings

  • Curtsy lunges : With dumbbells, step back and to the side like you are doing a curtsy, but keep your chest up.


  • Upright row

  • Shoulder press

  • Front raise

  • Lateral raise


  • Skull crushers

  • Tricep dips

  • Tricep kickbacks

Lower Abs

  • Reverse crunch

  • Pulse-up : Feet are straight up in the air and arms at your sides, lift your hips a few inches off the ground.

Upper Abs

  • Basic Crunch


  • Oblique crunch

  • Bicycle

  • Russian Twist

Deep Abs/Lower Back

  • Plank

  • Side Plank

  • Bird Dog : On all fours, one arm goes out as the opposite leg goes out.  Hold for two seconds and switch.

Here is how I organize my workout:  I pick three different exercises (using different muscle groups) and do 8-12 reps of each.  I then rotate through those same exercises two more times, which results in doing 3 sets of each.  For example, I might start with 8-12 push-ups, followed by 12 squats, followed by 8-12 tricep dips.  I then do those 3 exercises all over again 2 more times.  Then I switch to a different set of 3 exercises, like a plank, followed by lunges, followed by bicep curls.  And so on… until I hit thirty minutes.  If you keep your pace up (i.e. not resting a lot in between exercises), then you will be getting a great cardio workout too.

I’m sure there are other great exercises I could incorporate too… I bet my friend Elizabeth Sherman (personal trainer in Austin) knows plenty of other moves you can do at home with dumbbells or no weights at all.  This is a great place to start, though.  Adding 2 strength training sessions to each week will ensure that the weight you lose will ALL come from fat, and not from muscle!

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