Get Strong, Tone, and Lean With These Resistance Exercises

Any exercise where you move your body against resistance can be considered resistance or strength (weight) training. You can add resistance to your movement with weight machines at a gym, by using equipment such as hand-held weights, resistance bands, medicine (exercise) balls, cables, and even your own body weight. The great thing about resistance training is you can do it just about ANYWHERE. 

When you start a resistance training program, you can expect your body to get stronger, tighter and leaner more quickly. You can do a full body resistance workout with a day of rest in between or if you want to do some resistance training every day, alternate upper and lower body. For example, do upper body exercises one day, and lower body exercises the next. You shouldn’t train the same muscles every day because your muscles need time to repair and rebuild. Perform each movement slowly with proper form to avoid injury, and to prevent burnout, workout with a friend for added motivation and to help keep each other accountable. 

When you first start adding resistance to your workout I recommend using less weight, 3 to 5 pound hand weights, and more repetitions (reps), 10 to 15, for each set of exercises. Focus on good form, meaning that you learn to perform each movement through a complete range of motion without compromising good posture and body alignment. 

Here’s the Plan

2 to 3 times a week, do 1 to 2 sets of 10 to 15 reps of each move, alternating between upper and lower body exercises, without resting in between. Alternating between upper and lower body exercise without resting increases your cardio benefit and still allows you muscles the rest in between exercises. After 2 weeks, do 2 to 3 sets. When you reach the goal of 3 sets of 15 reps for each exercise, then you can start over at 1 to 2 sets, 10 to 15 reps with a heavier weight and increase sets, reps, and weight every few weeks. As your muscles gain strength you’ll begin to see yourself get lean and tone! 

1. Squat/Weighted Squat 

This squat can be done while holding a weight in front of you in front of you, chest level, which adds more of a workout for your core and legs. 

How to: Hold a dumbbell with both hands underneath the ‘bell’ at chest level, and set your feet shoulder-width apart with your toes pointing slightly outwards. Push your butt back like you’re sitting in a chair and descend until your elbows reach the inside of your knees. Keeping your heels flat, pressing onto the floor, pause at the bottom of the squat, and return to a full standing position.  

2. Modified Push-Up 

Push-ups engage your core and allow you to use the full range of motion in your shoulder blades. 

How to: Start on your knees facing the floor with your hands at shoulder-width, planted directly under the shoulders. Make sure your back is straight from your head to your knees. Keep your core (abs and butt) tight as you lower your body slowly to the ground. The elbows should be slightly tucked toward your body not out to your like the letter ‘T’. Descend until your chest is just above the ground and return to the starting position by fully extending your arms, and repeat. 

3. Weighted Lateral Squat 

This is a combination of a lateral lunge and a squat, useful for stretching your groin and inner thighs while also working out your hips, thighs, and trunk. 

How to: Holding hand weights at your sides, stand tall with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart, heels flat on the ground and toes pointed forward. Initiate the movement by pushing your hips backwards, bending your left leg, and leaning to your left with your right foot angled out slightly.  The left knee should be bent, left heel flat on the floor, and right leg extended with your weight over the left side of your body. This is one rep. Return to a standing position and descend doing the same movement on your right side. 

4. Dumbbell Row 

The dumbbell row helps to develop a strong back, arms and core. Plus, because it works your lats, traps, and rhomboids, it supports proper posture by pulling your shoulders back and helping to stabilize your spine. 

How to: On your hands and knees, Hold a dumbbell in one hand and extend the opposite leg back. Retract your shoulders, tighten your abs, and pull the weight up on that side of the body so that the weight is parallel to the side of your body. Lower under control, repeat your reps, then do the same on the opposite side. 

5. Weighted Split Squat (Stationary Lunge) 

This is important because it involves single-leg movements that help minimize training imbalances. Split squats will help to build lower-body strength while improving balance, flexibility, and stability in your hips. 

How to: Holding hand weights at your sides, stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Next, take a step forward with your right foot, and a large step backwards with your left foot, this is your starting position. Keep the front heel flat and descend into a lunge, keeping your front knee over your ankle, and bring your back knee toward the floor. Stop just before the knee touches the ground on the back leg with the front heel still flat on the ground. Pause for one second and return to standing. Repeat on the other side.


Photography Credits: Richard Sibbald

Apparel and Shoes: Asics

Yoga Mat:



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About the Author

Noreen Lange

Noreen Lange

Noreen Lange has a BS in kinesiology with a minor in fitness, nutrition and health. With over 10 years combined experience as a certified group fitness instructor, personal trainer, and nutrition and wellness consultant, Noreen has worked with celebrities, high profile athletes, and professional sports teams including Tony Gwynn and the San Diego Padres. Comments

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