“Exercise is a miracle drug,” said Dr. Jordan Metzl, an exercise physician with the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. “It helps us to prevent diseases and it also helps us to reverse them.” That’s why strength training exercises are so important—they help strengthen and rebuild muscles that will in turn make us look and feel younger.
Strength training is one of the most effective ways to improve your physical fitness, with benefits that extend far beyond just looking and feeling better. It can help reduce body fat, increase bone density, boost energy levels, prevent injury, sharpen mental processes and prolong life expectancy.
But what are the best strength-training exercises that will give you the most bang for your buck? Regardless of whether you’re a seasoned athlete or just getting started, here are 8 essential exercises to help you look and feel younger.
Squats are an excellent exercise for strengthening the legs and butt, as well as improving posture and balance. To perform a squat, stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees and lower your body down until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Hold this position for 1-2 seconds before returning back to standing.
Push-ups are a time-tested exercise that engage multiple muscle groups, including your chest, shoulders, triceps, and core muscles. According to a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, push-ups can be just as effective as bench presses for building upper body strength. They also require no equipment, making them a great option for at-home workouts.
Dr. Alice Holland, a director of Stride Strong Physical Therapy, pointed out that, “Lunges are indispensable. They engage your glutes, strengthen your legs, and improve your balance.” In fact, a Harvard Medical School study found that lunges activate more muscle fibers in the quadriceps than traditional squats.
Planks are a powerful exercise for strengthening your core, the ‘powerhouse’ of your body. Research from the American Council on Exercise found that planks are among the most effective exercises for engaging multiple core muscle groups simultaneously. Plus, holding a plank can raise your heart rate, contributing to improved cardiovascular fitness.
Deadlifts are particularly effective for targeting the muscles of your back and lower body. As renowned fitness coach Jim Rohn once said, “The deadlift is a total-body movement, and it’s more functional in that it’s very hard to replicate in real life.” This exercise can also help improve your posture, a key factor in maintaining a youthful appearance.
Pull-ups, while challenging, are one of the best exercises for developing upper body strength and toning your arms, back, and shoulders. They can also improve your grip strength, which according to a study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, is correlated with a lower risk of death from all causes.
7 Bench Press
The bench press is a classic chest-building exercise. As per a study from the European Journal of Applied Physiology, it’s a superior exercise for activating the pectoral muscles. Not only does it enhance upper body strength, but it also promotes bone health, reducing the risk of osteoporosis.
8 Overhead Press
The overhead press targets the deltoid muscles in your shoulders, helping you achieve a more defined look. According to Dr. Michael Jonesco, a sports medicine specialist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, “The overhead press is a great functional exercise that can help improve everyday movements.” It can also strengthen your upper back and improve your posture.