Your body craves movement. It wants to get strong and get moving every single day. Those aches and pains? It’s your body’s way of begging you to give it the attention it needs and deserves. And it doesn’t have to be a lot. Simply doing these 6 simple exercises at least a few times a week—which incorporate the basic actions of pushing, pulling, lifting, squatting, and strengthening your core—will help you keep your range of motion, strength, and energy. If you love your body, put it to work. It will thank you!
The Workout: Warm up for 1 minute. Do each exercise for 1 minute, with a 30-second rest in between each move. Total time = 10 minutes.
1. Bird Dog Push-Up
Why: You want to train both motions—pushing and pulling—to strengthen both the front and back of your body. This is a classic pushing exercise, but with a little added balance challenge. Done on the knees, it’s a well-modified push-up and a beginner balance challenge that is important to practice as we age. It’ll target your shoulders, back, arms, butt, and core.
How: Start in the modified push-up position, knees bent with hands slightly more than shoulder-width apart, and head, knees, and hips in one long line. Bend elbows and lower chest to floor, keeping abs tight and spine long (a). Straighten arms and press back to starting position, then extend right arm and left leg at hip height (b). Hold for 1 count, then lower arm and leg back to start. Complete another push-up, and then extend the left arm and right leg. Keep alternating with each rep.
2. The Perfect Row
Why: This pulling exercise will make everyday movements easier (like hauling groceries) and targets all of your back muscles.
How: Stand with feet hip-width apart. Slightly hinge forward from your hip flexors, keeping your abdominals engaged to protect your low back. Pull the elbows straight back past your hips (keep arms close to the body—don’t let elbows wing out). Engage and squeeze your back muscles, then lower weights back to the start position with control.
3. Lunge & Lift
Why: This is a multi-tasking winner. You work your legs, shoulders, and your core while challenging your balance.
How: Start in a low lunge position, right knee bent and directly over the ankle with back heel lifted, holding a weight in the left hand with arm extended my left knee (a). Straighten right leg, lift left knee to hip height, and press weight overhead (b). Return to starting position. Repeat on the opposite side. You can do this without the dumbbell if you’re just getting started.
4. Row The Boat Twist
Why: How many times do you rotate your body each day to empty the dishwasher, reach for something behind you, or look in your blind spot? Trunk rotation is another one of those moves you want to be able to do without thinking. This exercise will help you do it while toning your core and obliques.
How: Start seated with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, holding one weight with both hands in front of the chest. Keeping the spine long and abs tight, lean back slightly and lift feet a few inches off the floor. (To modify, keep feet on the floor.) Slowly twist torso to right and bring weight beside the right hip (a). Return to the center (b), then slowly twist to left and bring weight beside left hip (c). That’s 1 rep.
5. Dumbell Thruster
Why: Squating down and lifting things over your head seems to be a pretty basic move that we want to do for a lifetime, don’t you think? Pick up your grandkids? Put away something in the top cabinet? Train this range of motion, and you’ll be able to keep that up for a long, long time—and have a stellar lower body and strong core, too.
How: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and hold weights directly above shoulders, elbows bent. Lower into a squat, keeping abs tight and chest lifted (a), then straighten legs and press weights overhead (b).
6. Plank Taps
Why: Planks are the rockstar of abdominal work. The primary muscles involved with this move are your abdominal muscles and your back muscles, but you’ll also be working your shoulders, chest, butt, and legs.
How: Start on all fours with wrists under shoulders and knees under hips. Step one foot back, then the other, coming into plank position. Press your heels back and engage your core, thighs, and glutes, keeping your body in a straight line (no sinking of your hips). Imagine pulling your elbows to your toes to turn on your core muscles further. Lift one hand and tap it to the opposite shoulder, then bring it back down to the floor. Repeat with the opposite hand. Continue alternating hands, making sure to breathe in through your nose and forcefully out through your mouth (this will help you keep the core engaged).