Fitness: Build More Muscle in Less Time

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WHILE YOUR SCOUTS are growing, you’re shrinking. If you’re over the age of 30, man or woman, your muscle mass is declining as much as 2 percent a year. And muscle loss accelerates after age 45.

As the amount of muscle on your body shrinks, the number of calories you burn at rest—your metabolic rate—slows down. Muscle burns more calories than fat does. When you lose hard muscle, your body typically replaces it with soft fat.

You can keep from shrinking by using resistance training to build more muscle. At home. In 15 minutes.

The trick to efficient workouts is to use “combination exercises,” lifts that work two major muscle groups at once. If you do the workout in circuit style—moving from one exercise to the next with little or no rest in between—you’ll get aerobic benefits while keeping your workout short.

The only equipment you need: two dumbbells. Do each exercise for eight to 10 repetitions, moving immediately to the next exercise with little or no rest.

Keep the length of time between exercises to about 30 seconds.  And do the workout two or three times a week with rest days in between.

Get your doctor’s O.K. before starting any new workout regimen.

Builds cardiovascular strength and works the hamstrings, quadriceps, gluteals, calves, and the tiny muscles that support the ankles.

1. Hold a light dumbbell in each hand at your sides. (You can also do this exercise without weights; just hold your arms against your chest, with your hands together.) With your feet comfortably spaced, bend your knees to dip until your upper thighs are close to parallel with the floor.

2. Then jump explosively as high as you can. Upon landing, dip again and repeat.

Do eight to 10 repetitions.

Strengthens the core muscles that support the spine and protect against lower-back strains that come from twisting your torso while hiking and wearing a heavy pack.

1. Hold a dumbbell with both hands and squat so that your upper thighs are parallel (or nearly parallel) to the floor. Hold the dumbbell at arms’ length to the right of your right ankle. This is the starting position.

2. Quickly push with your legs; keeping your arms extended, rotate your torso left and bring the dumbbell above and to the left of your head. Slowly reverse the movement, bending into a squat and bringing the weight to outside the right foot.

Do nine more repetitions, and then repeat the exercise, this time holding the weight outside your left ankle and raising it above your right ear.

Works your lats and traps, the upper back muscles engaged every time you row a boat, paddle a canoe, or even start a lawnmower.

1. Grab a dumbbell in your right hand. Get into a bent-over row position: Split your stance, with left leg forward and right leg back, both knees bent. Bend at the waist and allow the dumbbell’s weight to pull your arm perpendicular to the floor. This is the starting position.

2. Pull the dumbbell to your chest while rotating your shoulders to the right.

Do 10 repetitions, and then repeat the exercise while holding the dumbbell in your left hand and positioning your right leg forward and left back.

Strengthens the legs, back, shoulders, and arms—all important to lifting and lugging heavy backpacks.

1. Hold a hexagonal dumbbell in both hands, with each hand gripping the side of the weight and your arms extended down in front of you. Position your feet a little more than shoulder-width apart, toes slightly pointed outward.

2. Squat until your upper thighs are nearly parallel to the floor (don’t bend at the waist).

3. Now, in one movement, stand up, bring the weight to your chest, and press it over your head.

Reverse the movement and complete 10 repetitions.

Jeff Csatari is the author of Your Best Body at 40+, available at

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