You should not have to join a fancy gym or spend loads of money on home fitness equipment in order to build lean body mass. Using simple at-home objects such as canned food, a towel or even a chair can be just as effective as using a dumbbell or a resistance band. Remember, the body does not know the difference between lifting a one-pound can of beans or a dumbbell. As long as you are overloading the muscles (even if that overload is from your own body weight) you will build muscle strength.
If you have limited mobility or are recovering from an injury, you don't have to sit still and do nothing. Consider exercising right from the comfort of your home in a seated position. Using a chair and a light set of dumbbells (or soup cans) can help challenge your back, shoulders, abs, biceps, triceps, glutes, quads and calves. One of the great things about these exercises is that you can do them anywhere you have access to a chair, whether at home or on the job.
Aim for eight to 12 reps of each exercise, starting with one set and working up to two to three sets total as you become stronger.
Back & Shoulders
Seated Dumbbell Rows: Sit at the edge of a chair with your legs together and back straight. Hinge from the hips to lower torso onto thighs. Hold weights near the floor, palms facing body, with arms extended directly below the shoulders. Exhale as you squeeze shoulder blades together and bend elbows about 90 degrees to lift weights away from the floor, then inhale as you slowly return weights to starting position by straightening arms back down. Remember to keep your abs engaged to protect your back. Other than arms moving, try to keep your body as still as possible during the exercise.
Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press: Sit on the end of a chair, holding dumbbells or soup cans in each hand with palms facing out, elbows at 90 degrees and palms at shoulder level. Exhale as you push the weights overhead until arms are straight and in line with shoulders. Don't lock elbows completely. Inhale as you return to starting position to complete one rep. If you experience shoulder pain, face your palms in toward the body, instead. Don't arch your back as you perform the exercise.
Biceps & Triceps
Seated Dumbbell Concentration Curls: Begin seated on a chair. Hold a dumbbell with an underhand grip, resting that elbow on the inner side of your thigh. Inhale as you curl the dumbbell up to your shoulder, keeping upper body still, then exhale as you lower the weight back down until your arm is straight but the elbow is not locked. This is a great exercise if you have trouble keeping proper form on seated or standing curls.
Triceps Dips With Bent Knees: Sit tall on the edge of a sturdy chair or step and wrap your fingertips over the front edge. Place feet on the floor in front of you with knees bent. Lift hips and butt up and slightly forward. Bend elbows about 90 degrees to lower hips toward the floor. If you feel pain in the shoulders, your elbows are bent too much. Press up until elbows are straight, but not locked.
Triceps Dips With Straight Legs: Sit on a chair or step, grasping the front edge of the seat near thighs. Walk feet forward until hips are slightly bent, legs are straight and arms are extended (don't lock elbows). Keep feet hip-width apart throughout the motion. Inhale as you bend elbows to about 90 degrees and lower hips toward the floor. If you feel pain in the shoulders, your elbows are bent too much. Then, exhale as you press up until elbows are straight, but not locked. Keep weight on your heels with your toes pointed up toward the ceiling.
Seated Dumbbell Triceps Extensions: Sit holding one dumbbell with both hands behind your neck by grasping the plate and wrapping your thumbs and pointer fingers around the hand grip. Exhale as you extend arms straight above your head, keeping elbows tight next to your ears. Inhale as you lower the weight back down, with control, to the starting position to complete one rep. Contract abs to avoid arching your back. Use a chair or bench with a short back (if available) for support.
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