Weights and Cardiovascular Exercise for Busy People

Lifting weights and getting cardiovascular exercise doesn't need to take a lot of time. By alternating exercises over different days of the week, you can get a well-rounded workout that is not redundant or time consuming. Here are some exercises that can get you what you need, fast!

By Dr. Jeff St. John


Upper Body Exercises    to top

Most of the following exercises can be done at a nearby gym and only require 10–20 minutes of your time. You can start with 2–3-pound weights and you may work your way up to a heavier weight if you wish for upper body exercises. Some of the exercises rely on weight machines found at your local gym.

  • Warm-Up: It is always important to allow yourself to warm up and cool down before an exercise. This is easily done by tightening and relaxing the muscle you are exercising while practicing the movement of the exercise without using any type of weights.
  • Overhead Shoulder Press: From a seated position and with a free weight in each hand, place each weight so it is level with (and to the side of) each shoulder. Slowly raise each weight upward until your elbows are straight, hold to the count of three, then gently bring them back to their original position. Be sure that your seat offers proper support and keep your back flat against the back of your chair. Do three sets of these exercises. Each set consists of ten repetitions and will help to keep your shoulders tight and toned.
  • Shoulder Flies: Stand or sit with your free weights in each hand. Both hands will be at rest at the middle of your waist. From this position, you will lift your elbows out to both sides, like you are pouring a pitcher of iced tea, until they are level with your shoulders. Count to three. Be sure to keep your elbows locked. Then, slowly release your arms and bring them back to their original position. Three sets of ten repetitions of this exercise will help to develop well-rounded and firm shoulder muscles!
  • Chest Flies: Lie flat on a bench with your feet firmly on the ground. To start, hold a free weight in each hand, bend and lock your elbows, and place each weight together directly above and away from the center of your chest. Pull the weights away from each other (keep your elbows locked) until they come to rest a few feet away from either side of your chest. Count to three. Then return them to their original position. Do three sets of ten repetitions to keep your chest and breast area fit and firm.
  • Reverse Shoulder Flies: These are performed exactly like Chest Flies except you will be using an incline bench and be lying on your stomach. From this position, you will be working the back of your shoulder area to keep it plump (bad word choice for fitness—plump?) and round if you do three sets of ten repetitions.
  • Bench Press: Lying flat on a bench with your feet firmly on the ground, you will grab the barbell in front of you, making sure that each hand is about shoulder-width apart, and push the barbell away from your body until your arms are almost straight. Then, bring it back toward your chest and it should stop right across the top of your chest and a few inches away from it. Repeat these movements and add weight as needed. Do three sets of ten repetitions of this chest- and breast-enhancing exercise.
  • Arm Curls: From a standing or seated position with your hands in front of you, you will grab the barbell with both hands (palms facing toward you) and then pull it up under your chin and above your shoulders. Be sure to bend your elbows. Next, slowly straighten your elbows so that the barbell returns to its original position. (If you are standing and using a free weight, the barbell will rest below your waist.) Repeat these movements by doing three sets of ten repetitions. This will help to strengthen and tone your biceps!
  • Hammer Curls: From a seated position with your arms on either side of you and a free weight in each hand, bend your elbows and lift the weights upward until they almost touch your shoulders and then return them to their original position. These hammer curls can tone and help build larger biceps when you repeat these movements by doing three sets of ten repetitions.
  • Triceps Dips: From a seated position, you will grab the handles (what handles?) on both sides of you and (with your elbows bent) you will push downward and straighten out your arms until they have reached a full extension. Then, you will bend your elbows and allow them to return to their original position. Three sets of ten of these muscle-toning exercises will help to eliminate or prevent lose skin under your arms.
  • Sit-Ups: Lie on the floor with your hands behind your neck. Raise to a sitting position by utilizing only your stomach muscles. Then, return to your original position, lying on the floor. Be careful not to apply much pressure to the back of your neck—your hands are just there for support. For a firm, flat, and chiseled tummy, do as many sit-ups as you can and try to do more every time you exercise.


Lower Body Exercises     to top

All of the following lower body exercises can be done in 20–30 minutes and will leave you fit, firm, and ready to go on with the rest of your day!

  • Leg Curl: While lying facedown on a bench, you will hook your ankles behind a cushioned bar and bring your heels up toward your buttocks by bending your knees. You'll stop a few inches away from your buttocks and then slowly release the weight back to its original position. Doing three sets of eight repetitions of this exercise will help you develop firmer hamstrings (backs of the legs) and a well-rounded behind.
  • Leg Press: Lying face-up with your knees bent, you will place your feet against a pad and extend your legs up and away from your body until your legs are almost completely straight. Then, you will bend your knees to bring the weight back to its original position. Performing three sets of eight of these repetitions will help to increase the strength and firmness of your front thighs and buttocks muscles.
  • Walking Lunges: Stand with your feet apart and one free weight in each hand. Begin to walk from one side of the room to the other, making sure that the knee of your back leg almost touches the floor each time you take a step. Doing a few sets of these exercises will you to develop your thigh muscles.
  • Calf Raises: This exercise can quickly be done at home or throughout the day if you are going to be standing for a long period of time. Calf raises start from a standing, flat-footed position. From here, you raise up to rest on the balls of both feet (hold for five seconds) and slowly release to come back to your original stance. Doing these calf raises as often as you can will help to give you shapely calf muscles. You can also try three sets of twelve repetitions with a low weight the next time you are at the gym.


Quick Cardiovascular Exercises    to top

Here are some quick ways to exercise your cardiovascular system to help burn unwanted fat and assist in healthy weight maintenance. Any of the following cardiovascular exercises can also be done three times a week or more for maintenance of over-all physical health.

  • Walking: The great thing about walking is it can be done just about anywhere at any time for any amount of time. If you are new to cardiovascular exercises, start by looking for any opportunity you can to walk. Instead of taking an escalator, an elevator, or a car when traveling short distances, walk! You can also start out with taking short walks around your block and limiting the distance you walk to your immediate neighborhood. You don't want to walk too far away from home and then be too tired to walk back. Walk at a pace that is comfortable for you and eventually increase your pace to a faster walk as your body adjusts to this cardiovascular exercise. Increase your distance, too! Be sure to wear running shoes that offer your feet proper support, for comfort, and to reduce the risk of injury.
  • Running: After you have tried walking and graduated to a very fast walk, you are ready to try running. Limit your runs to short distances around the house before attempting long distances or signing up for a marathon! Gradually work your way up to a forty-five minute jog at a pace that is comfortable for you. Focus on increasing the distance that you jog over time for 40–45 minutes or less.
  • Jumping Rope: Jumping rope is one of the quickest and easiest ways to begin cardiovascular exercising. All it requires is a jump rope that is long enough for you to swing under your feet and above your head when you hold one end of the rope in each hand. Start out jumping rope for as long as you can and gradually work your way up to ten or fifteen minutes each time you try this exercise.
  • Biking: Biking is one of the quickest and most convenient ways to exercise. Stationary bikes are convenient because you never have to leave the house and you can stop at any time. Start out biking for 10–15 minutes and gradually work your way up to 20–30 minutes. See if you can bike longer distances in shorter amounts of time each time you bike or use a stationary bike. Your stationary bike will tell you the length of distance you would have traveled on a regular bike.
  • Aerobic Classes: Aerobic classes are great ways to start your day. I suggest that you start by going to your local video store and buying a low-impact cardiovascular exercise tape of your choice and performing along with it a couple of times a week. There are a wide variety of these kinds of videos that offer a maximum amount of exercise in a minimal amount of time (usually 20–30 minutes).

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