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At-Home Upper-Body Resistance Exercises

Jun 3, 2008

Head for the kitchen!! This week Dr. Sheri Colberg, Ph.D., FACSM explains how you can do at-home upper-body resistance exercises, with nothing more than a broom and a can of soup.

At-Home Upper-Body Resistance Exercises


By Sheri Colberg, Ph.D., FACSM

SheriIf you do not have access to any small hand weights or resistance bands, you can do some resistance exercises using household items, and you can also fit in some “unstructured” weight training by lifting items around the house (including kids and grandkids). Be forewarned, however, that at least one study showed that for older adults with type 2 diabetes, home-based resistance training was not effective for maintaining normal blood glucose levels, although improvements in muscle strength and muscle mass were equivalent to those achieved in a gym. In that study, the reduced adherence to regular training and the 52 percent reduction in the intensity of training at home (due to people not having access to weight training machines) likely lessened the impact of the home-based resistance work on blood glucose levels, which is most reflective of how much muscle glycogen you use during workout sessions. If you use lighter weights (or household items), you will use up less glycogen and, accordingly, have a smaller impact on your insulin action and your blood glucose. Lighter training also recruits and trains fewer muscle fibers, resulting in a smaller increase in muscle mass following training. Still, if you have to choose between an easier, home-based program and no training at all, stick with whatever you can manage to do at home.

Try the following easy versions of the same upper-body work in the past four columns that you can do using items you already have around the house:

  • Flour chest press (upper-body exercise #1): Do the chest press using 5- or 10-pound bags of flour (or a lighter bag of cornmeal to start) held in both hands.
  • Spaghetti sauce shoulder press (upper-body exercise #2): Try the shoulder press holding a full jar of spaghetti sauce in each hand (use larger or heavier jars as you are able).
  • Bottled water lateral raise (upper-body exercise #3): Do your lateral raises holding water bottles of varying weights (12-ounce, 20-ounce, 1-liter, or 2-liter sizes).
  • Dictionary modified push-ups (upper-body exercise #4): Vary your modified push-ups by having someone place a dictionary (or a 5-pound bag of flour) in the middle of your back after you assume the starting position on the floor.
  • Broom double-arm row (upper-body exercise #5): Do a variation of double-arm rowing while holding a broom or mop; for more weight, tie milk jugs or bottles on each end filled with varying amounts of water.
  • Mop pull-down (upper-body exercise #6): Try a variation of lat pull-downs by holding a mop or broom with your hands as far apart as is comfortable; to add more weight, follow instructions for double-arm row (above).
  • Soup can biceps and triceps curls (upper-body exercises #7 and #8): Do your biceps and triceps curls holding a soup can in your hand (or try larger cans, jars, or water bottles for more weight).

© 2006 by Sheri Colberg

In two weeks, some lower-body resistance training exercises will be presented. For more information, consult The 7 Step Diabetes Fitness Plan: Living Well and Being Fit with Diabetes, No Matter Your Weight by Sheri Colberg and The Science of Staying Young by John E. Morley and Sheri Colberg (2007).  Also, visit her web site at www.shericolberg.com for additional articles and access to her fitness blog.