A Simple Way To Add Strength Training To Your Exercise Routine

Strength training, weight, and resistance training are excellent ways to strengthen your muscles, which in turn helps to regulate blood sugar.

Plus, the more muscle you have, the more your body burns calories, even as you rest.

The American Diabetes Association recommends doing some form of strength training at least twice each week aside from aerobic exercise. Strength training includes activities such as lifting weights at a gym, lifting objects at home (e.g. bottles of water, canned foods), using resistance bands, doing heavy gardening, and calisthenics—strengthening muscles using your body weight.

Some types of exercise combine aerobic or flexibility exercise with strength training, such as swimming, yoga, and Pilates.

Adding Strength Training To Your Exercise Routine

A simple calisthenic exercise you can do at home to build muscle is the plank. It requires a short amount of time and no equipment other than your body. Though simple and straightforward, the plank builds strength and endurance in your back, abs, and core muscles.

To do a basic plank:

  • Get on your hands and knees. Place your forearms on the floor with your elbows directly under the shoulders, your wrists and hands straight out in front, in line with the elbows.
  • Toes to the floor, lift your knees and push your body up so that your back, buttocks, and the backs of your legs form a flat plane or plank. Drop your chin toward your neck. (If this is too difficult, start doing the plank with your knees remaining on the floor, your back and buttocks forming a flat plank. You can spread your feet apart for added balance.)
  • In the plank position, squeeze or contract your stomach, tailbone, and thigh muscles, pull the bellybutton in, and draw the lower pelvic muscles up—while continuing to breath normally.
  • Hold the plank position for 20 to 30 seconds, then rest for one minute. Repeat three to five times.

As you develop more strength you can do the plank with straight arms, hands under the shoulders, if you wish.

Five More Plank Benefits

The plank is an effective and popular exercise since it works several muscle groups simultaneously, and its benefits go beyond boosting blood sugar management.

  1. Because the plank builds core and upper back muscles with minimal movement, it often reduces lower-back pain.
  2. When abdominal muscles are strong the mid-section tightens. This can lead to a more toned and flatter appearing belly (unless there is excess body fat).
  3. Strengthening the abs and core muscles helps us to stand tall and maintain good balance as we go about our day.
  4. Though all exercise can boost our mood, the plank does so in a specific way. Doing this exercise stretches and relaxes muscles that typically tense-up during prolonged sitting, and the release of this tension is rejuvenating.
  5. Doing planks expands muscle around the shoulders, collarbone, and shoulder blades, and stretches the hamstrings, and arches of the feet. This gives you more flexibility in muscles that are often neglected.

There are plenty of plank demonstration videos, including plank variations, on the web at YouTube, Vimeo, or Mercola.com.

Sources: Mercola.com; ADA
Photo credit: jeronimo sanz / flickr creative commons

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