FOR most of us, exercise is synonymous with a desire to lose or maintain body weight. However, if you are underweight and are having challenges gaining weight, or are just looking to bulk up, personal trainer and fitness expert Gisel Harrow says there are also some exercise techniques that you can explore to help you gain a healthy weight.
“Exercise is beneficial in so many ways, whether it's losing weight, building muscle (weight gain) or just staying healthy. Using exercise for weight gain (muscles) can be obtained by lifting moderate to heavy weights using a variety of compound movements and a balanced, nutritious diet,” Harrow explained.
What specific technique should you incorporate in your exercise regimen? Harrow shares a few techniques and how to achieve them below.
Lunges are perfect because they tone your thighs while strengthening most muscles in your legs in addition to targeting other lower areas such as the glutes.
How to execute: Stand with your feet together and your hands on your hips. Then lunge forward with your right leg, switch legs and land with your left leg in a forward lunge. Continue these lunges, alternating sides. Your front knee should be bent 90 degrees. Do 15 repetitions on each side for three sets.
A squat is a lower body exercise that mimics our everyday sit-to-stand pattern. When executed properly and consistently, squats are very effective in toning and strengthening muscles in the lower body.
How to execute: With your feet just a little wider than hip-width apart, your toes turned out slightly and your arms at your sides, engage your abdominal muscles and gently pull your shoulder blades towards each other. Squat down as if you were going to sit in a chair, keeping your weight over your heels. Squeeze your glutes as you return to the start position. Do 15 to 20 repetitions. As you continue, keep the weight in your heels, making sure your knees do not extend past your toes.
Push-ups are easy to execute techniques that help to build muscles in the hands and shoulders. They also help in strengthening the pectoral muscles that are located below the breasts and also tone the arms.
How to execute: Get into the high plank position and firmly place your hands on the ground, directly under the shoulders. Keeping your back straight, bring your body towards the ground. Make sure your stomach doesn't touch the floor, then push back. If you find this exercise too challenging, then you may keep your knees on the floor. Do three to five sets of 12 repetitions and increase as you get stronger.
The chest press technique is an upper-body strengthening exercise that targets your pectorals (chest), deltoids (shoulders), and triceps (arms).
To execute: Lie on a bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Your feet should be firmly placed on the floor. Push the dumbbells up in a way that your arms are directly over the shoulders and palms up. Bring the dumbbells back to shoulder level and repeat. Do three to four sets of 12 repetitions.
Bent over rows are a compound lift technique, commonly used for upper body strengthening, that can increase overall strength and muscle mass of the back muscles.
How to execute: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, then bend your knees and lean over from your waist, while keeping your neck lined up with your spine. Let the dumbbells hang with straight arms, then slowly bring them up to your chest by squeezing your shoulders together. Do three sets of 12 to 15 repetitions.
Pull-ups are an upper-body strengthening exercise. They shape your upper body muscles, including your biceps, forearms and deltoid.
How to execute: Start by making a firm grip on the pull-up bar with both hands. Hold onto the bar with hands slightly wider than shoulder-width, palms facing each other. Now hoist your body up ward until your chin reaches above the bar. Squeeze shoulder blades together and pull the upper arms down forcefully. Slowly lower your body back down to start position. Repeat motion without swinging. Aim for two to three sets of eight to 10 pull-ups.
Harrow said that this combination of exercises will help in engaging multiple muscles while triggering your hormonal response systems.
“You want to make sure that you set up a workout programme for at least three days per week that targets each of the major muscle groups, doing two to three exercises per muscle group,” Harrow advised.
When weight gain is your main reason for exercising, she said that it is important to note that there are also some activities to avoid or limit. These include aerobics and cardio type activities since these burn a lot of calories, which takes away from your weight gain goals.