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Resistance Exercise and You

Resistance exercise, like weightlifting, is the perfect partner of aerobic exercises such as jogging.
Resistance Exercise and You

resistance band set

Resistance exercise improves bone and muscle health and can help us maintain our independence as we get older. The President's Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition recommends that adults perform muscle-strengthening activities, such as resistance exercise, involving the whole body at least twice a week.

Muscle-strengthening Activities? Resistance Exercise? What is the Difference?

A muscle-strengthening activity is any activity, including resistance exercise, that improves muscle strength or performance. In other words, resistance exercise is one type of muscle-strengthening activity, but muscle-strengthening activities include other activities.

Some people, such as construction workers, farmers, landscapers and manual laborers, may perform full-body muscle-strengthening activities during work. Many of us these days, though, are not regularly performing these muscle-strengthening activities as part of our jobs. Instead, we should perform resistance exercise.

Types of Resistance Exercise

We have many types of resistance exercise, but the most commonly thought-of type is weightlifting. Although most people associate resistance exercise with free weights, such as barbells and dumbbells, resistance exercise also can be performed with weightlifting machines, such as a pull-down machine or leg press, with resistance bands or with just your own body weight.

What If You Don’t Have Any Equipment at Home?

Most of us don’t have any weights or resistance bands at home and may not able to go to a gym. Luckily, calisthenics, or resistance exercises using your own bodyweight, are challenging and effective, and can be performed almost anywhere. Some examples are:

  • Push-ups
  • Planks
  • Lunges
  • Squats
  • Pull-ups

For information about resistance exercise at home, check out the American Council on Exercise’s Top 25 At-Home Exercises by visiting

If some of these movements are too challenging, consider modifying them. Push-ups, for instance, can be performed on your knees. Also, even if you do not have access to any weights or other equipment, consider “making” a dumbbell out of a gallon jug. A completely full gallon jug weighs about 8 pounds. Remember: A pint weighs a pound the world around.


Progression is Important

One of the most important ideas of resistance exercise is progression. Setting goals for ourselves is important, and once we reach them, we must set new, more challenging goals.

Maybe my first goal is to do one push-up. Once I can do a push-up, my new goal might be to do five push-ups.

Essentially, the important thing about resistance exercise selection is that the exercise is doable and challenging. If you are new to resistance exercise, consider finding a professional such as a personal trainer or physical therapist to help get you started.


Nathaniel Johnson,
Program Assistant, NDSU Extension

Sponsored in part by the Sanford Health Foundation.

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