“I live far away from any gym. It’s a distance problem.” - Jennifer Drawbridge: Age 52, Nurse-Midwife and brand new Cooking Light stress columnist, Lincolnville, Maine
Ask Jennifer her problem with strength training and her answer is simple: “Hello, rural America.” The nearest gym is a half-hour away, and Jen, who drives an hour to work, just isn’t up for the added road time. She exercises five or six times a week, but she prefers the outdoors and cardio—snowshoeing in winter, hiking in summer. She has some free weights at home and an exercise band at work, but she has no program. And there’s this: “The women in my family have bones like Fritos. My grandmother broke her hip. My mom did also. I’m well aware of my genetic tendency, so I know weight-bearing exercise is the thing to be doing.”
Strengthening her bones can help Jennifer become even better at the aerobic activities she likes to do (and hopefully avoid the frail frames of her matriarchs). She just needs a handful of moves she can utilize anywhere when she’s got a few minutes to strength train—no gym required.
- Get creative with cords. You can do hundreds of muscle-sculpting moves using a pair of portable exercise cords. Experiment with wrapping the cords around stationary furniture, different parts of your body, or standing on them for more resistance.
- Do a different push-up. The basic push-up is one of the best exercises for building upper-body strength. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the hardest for women to do. Try this instead: Get into a push-up position, then slowly lower yourself to the floor for a count of two. Don’t push yourself up if you can’t. Just get back into the up position and repeat the exercise for as many reps as you can. You’ll be doing a regular push-up in no time.
- Pick the right resistance. If the weights you’re using aren’t heavy enough, you’ll see fewer results. Researchers at Grand Valley State University in Michigan found that when subjects were asked to choose weights they thought were heavy enough, every subject picked weights that were lighter than what they needed. A good rule of thumb: Always only use weights that allow you to do an exercise 8 to 12 times.
- Don’t sit when you lift. Doing curls, presses, or triceps extensions while standing allows you to lift up to 30% more weight, which can help you develop leaner muscle faster.
- Try other bone-strengthening activities. Lifting weights isn’t the only way to build stronger bones. Yoga and tai chi, which work multiple muscle groups simultaneously, have been shown to improve bone growth and strengthen muscle, too. Learn a few moves or poses that you can do anywhere. Get our expert's suggestions.