Though people think weight training is all about growing muscle, one of the many lesser known benefits of weight training is that it makes your bones and joints stronger. As you age, the muscles and ligaments that support your joints begin to grow weak. However, regular exercise and good diet practices make sure that your joints don’t creak and ache. Whatever your age may be, it’s never too late to start pumping some iron. Here are 8 exercises that target specific joints so that your joints are bulletproof.
1. Hip Thrusters
Bridges and thrusters activate the posterior chain (back muscles), while also training the hips to knees tracking safely straight ahead.
Start with on your back on a mat, arms down along your sides. Bend your knee and plant your foot as close to your butt as you can, about two fist-widths apart.
Straighten your other leg. Press firmly into your foot and deliberately clench your butt muscles to press your hips to the sky; your knees, hips, and shoulders will form a plane at the top.
Hold for up to five beats before lowering and repeating; do three sets of 10. Elevating your shoulders on a bench gets you a greater range of motion to lower and raise the hips and a bit more back work.
2. Chest-To-Ground Push-Up
By doing sets of chest-to-ground pushups, you work the muscles in their full range of motion. These pushups are also called “hand release” pushups, because you should lift your hands off the ground when you get to the bottom.
Start in good top-of-pushup (plank) form, hands slightly wider than shoulders, glutes squeezed. Lower yourself all the way to the floor, making sure your elbows track backward to form an A frame with your head, not winged way out to the side.
If you pitch yourself slightly forward on your toes, you’ll get it. Let your chest lightly touch the ground, then press back up, keeping the core and glutes engaged the whole time.
Replace your set of 20 regular pushups with 10 to 15 of these, and you’ll realize what you were missing.
3. Lateral Raise
Lateral raises help you in targeting the middle delts. Unfortunately, they may also put your rotator cuffs at risk. To keep it safer, opt for scaption, a slightly different angle (literally) on the exercise.
Hold a dumbbell in each hand at your sides. With a soft bend in the knees, engage through the abs and raise the weights out to your sides at an angle slightly closer together than 180 degrees, so that you can see the weights fully in your peripheral vision.
Maintain a neutral thumbs-up grip (also safer for the rotator cuffs) and only raise so your arms are parallel to the ground.
4. Walking Lunge
So many lower-body lifts keep your feet firmly planted on the floor which is great for challenging muscular strength. But walking lunges challenge both your strength (when loaded with heavy weights) and functional ability.
Before you grab heavy dumbbells, do a few practice runs. Start with feet hip-width apart. Step forward into a lunge, bending both knees to 90 degrees and leaning the torso forward slightly so your weight is on the front foot.
Push that foot into the ground to pull your body forward. Bring your rear foot either to meet the front (helpful to regain balance) or immediately forward into a lunge. Travel at least 10 paces down the floor.
When you add weight, be sure to keep the torso leaned but not collapsed over the front leg. Use it as a warmup or an additional exercise to a lower-body day.
5. Forearm Plank
Forearm planks are great to encourage core integration, which is essential for basically every move you make. However, you should make sure you’re doing them right.
Place your forearms on the floor so your elbows are right under your shoulders. Extend one leg straight back, kickstanding the foot, and send the other leg to meet it.
Looking at a point between your hands, press your arms firmly into the floor so that your shoulders engage, and squeeze your butt. Hold the plank for as long as you can without losing form.
6. 45-Degree Incline Row
The rear delts are often under-addressed—mainly because they are harder to target—which can create muscle imbalances from front to back. This row specifically was found to be the best for stimulating muscle activity in the rear delts in an American Council on Exercise study, so you know it’s gotta be good.
Angle a bench at 45 degrees and grab some dumbbells. Straddle the seat so your chest is against the bench.
Hang the dumbbells down and row them back wide, keeping your elbows out at 90 degrees from your body.
Squeeze your shoulder blades at the top before lowering with control. Start your shoulder workout with sets of these before moving to the middle delts and front delts, which tend to be the strongest.
7. Individual Cable Lat Pulldown
When you use a cable cross machine to split the load of a lat pulldown with two separate handles attached to their own weight stacks, you can’t cheat by letting the stronger side do more of the pulling. Plus, the core works harder when you do it this way.
Raise the cable handles all the way to the top. Kneel and sit your butt back on your heels or sit on a low box between the handles—just be sure your arms can come to full extension overhead without letting the weight stacks rest.
As you pull the handles down, elbows toward sides, think about pulling with your armpits to better engage the lats, and raising your sternum to the sky.
Replace your usual lat pulldowns with sets of these, but go a little lighter than half your usual weight on each stack—you’ll be surprised how much tougher it is.
8. Low Lunges
Your hip flexors get tight from sitting too much. Lunging opens them back up. This is a good exercise to add to your cool-down stretches.
Start by kneeling on a mat. Step one foot forward, knee bent, extending the back leg behind you. If your front knee is bent past 90 degrees, widen your legs until it’s not.
Square off your hips and press them forward until you feel a good stretch across the front of the back leg. Add an overhead reach with the arms to intensify. Hold for 30 seconds; yes, it will feel like an eternity the first few times. Switch sides.
Add an overhead reach with the arms to intensify. Hold for 30 seconds; yes, it will feel like an eternity the first few times. Switch sides.