Tips and tricks


At first, integrating strength and resistance exercise into your daily routine may seem overwhelming. However, there are many accessible and easy ways to start doing resistance activity. See below for some tips, tricks and info you should know before starting.


What muscles should I exercise:

  • legs - hamstrings (back of leg), quads (front of leg) and calves
  • chest
  • upper back
  • shoulders
  • biceps (front of upper arm)
  • triceps (back of upper arm)
  • abdominals (stomach area)
  • obliques (sides of abdomen)
  • core (deep postual muscles around stomach)
  • lower back

TOP TIP! Remember, strength and resistance activity doesn't have to always be structured into an exercise routine. Some everyday tasks such as carrying the shopping, heavy gardening, carrying children, pushing a wheelchair or climbing the stairs all count towards your total strength and resistance activity.


Training tips for resistance exercise in the gym:

  • Always include a gradual warm up at the start of the session (e.g. body weight exercises, stretches, 5 mins on the cross trainer) and a cool down after (foam rolling, stretching, a light walk). Both should be around 5-10 mins
  • Don't start too heavy - proper form is key to reducing injury. Machines in the gym are a great way to start as they guide you through the proper movement, unlike 'free weights' such as barbells
  • Seek the support of a gym instructor who will happily answer any questions you have about using the gym equipment, machines, or any exercises
  • Make use of the different equipment / machines to do a all over body circuit - this will target all major muscles and also keep things interesting!

Training tips for resistance exercise at home or outside:

The good news is you definitely don't need a gym membership to do strength and resistance exercise: At home or outside in a garden or park you can think about:

  • Always include a gradual warm up at the start of the session (e.g. body weight exercises, stretches, 5 mins on the cross trainer) and a cool down after (foam rolling, stretching, a light walk). Both should be around 5-10 mins
  • Use what you have - anything from stairs for tricep dips, sofa for Bulgarian lunges, tins and cans for bicep curls, rucksack filled with books for squats - it all counts and all works!
  • Consider investing in some resistance bands - these are highly versatile and can be used in many ways for a great resistance workout
  • Use online videos and workout clips to follow for inspiration

TOP TIP! There are many sites that give example strength and resistance workouts for your age and ability. For example, British Heart Foundation have produced advice and instructional 'How To' videos for many different exercises you can do with a resistance band. Take a look here: https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/heart-matters-magazine/activity/resistance-bands Could you make up a circuit from these ideas?

The NHS also provides some useful tips for resistance exercise advice for wheelchair users: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/wheelchair-users-fitness-advice/


Definitions and getting started:

Sometimes the language used around strength and resistance activity can be confusing! Take a look at the definitions and ways to get started in building a routine:

Exercises - the actual activity you are performing, exercises include squats, bicep curls, press ups, sit ups etc

Reps - short for repetitions, are the action of one complete exercise. For example, it may be written as 8 reps x bicep curl, which means 8 complete bicep curls

Sets - sets are how many reps you do in a row followed by a period of rest. For example, you may see 3 x 10 x squat (3 minutes rest), which means 3 sets of 10 squat reps, with 3 minutes recovery in between each set

Superset - means to perform (normally) 2 exercises back to back, without a rest between the two. For example 10 sit ups straight into 10 press ups

Circuits - Circuit training is the combination of 6 or more exercises performed with short passive or active rest between them. Each exercise is performed for either a set number of reps, or prescribed amount of time. 1 circuit is when all chosen exercises have been completed. It is great for targeting specific muscles, or a full body workout

Passive / active recovery - passive recovery means standing still, whilst active recovery means you are moving during your rest, either by walking, jogging, or continuing some light exercise

Free weights - such as dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, weight plates - anything you can pick up and requires balance and stability

Mechanical resistance - usually gym machines which guide you through the movement and require less balance and stability, but reduce the risk of injury

Getting started building a strength and resistance workout:

  • start by making sure you understand how to perform each exercise, and pick exercises you can complete comfortably without pain or injury risk
  • start with a 5-10 minute warm up
  • aim for 8-12 reps for each exercise, which counts as 1 set. Your limit should be to the point at which it would be difficult to do another rep without help
  • aim for at least 2 sets of each exercise. You can gradually increase this to 3 sets
  • increase the weight very gradually over a period of 2-3 weeks
  • don't train the same muscles groups one day after another. For example, focus on legs one day and arms the next
  • for an all over circuit, try something like 2 sets of 10 press ups, 12 sit ups, 10 squats, 10 tricep dips, 12 star jumps, 10 lunges (both sides) with 30 seconds passive rest in between each exercise, and 2-3 minutes passive rest between sets
  • no specific amount of time is recommended, but a typical training session could take less than 20 minutes