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Some Ways to Resistance Train at Home

Why Should I Resistance Train?

Do you need to pick up kids/grandkids? Do you carry and pick up grocery bags? Do you enjoy gardening and yard work? Do you enjoy home improvement tasks? Do you enjoy being active with recreational sports, aerobic exercise, or going to the gym?

If you answered yes to any of the above, then you NEED to resistance train! Resistance training is exactly what it sounds like: specifically training our bodies and minds to build a tolerance and capacity to pushing/pulling/carrying/squatting/hinging objects.  In other words, by resistance training, we are potentially reducing our injury risk to these everyday movements AND making them feel WAY easier! Not to mention various other benefits resistance training brings…

Okay I’m Interested!  What is Resistance Training Exactly?

 As mentioned above, resistance training involves using external resistance and stimulus to train our bodies to adapt and grow stronger, more powerful, and perform better. The external stimulus can be free weights (dumbbells, barbells), machines, resistance bands, or even everyday objects like BACKPACKS and LAUNDRY BASKETS.

Resistance training gives our bodies many benefits:

  • It can lower all-cause mortality by 21% and reduce many risks of different cancers (Maestroni 2020).
  • It improves our strength, force production, injury risk, and protection to vital organs.
  • It can lead to decreases in Type 2 Diabetes risk, cardiovascular disease, dementia, depression, and visceral adipose tissue.
  • It can also strengthen our immune system, bones, tendons, muscles, and potentially inhibit central pain pathways and give our body natural pain relievers in the form of endorphins.

If you are worried about getting injured performing weightlifting, a great study published in 2016 (Summitt 2016) showed that athletes who participated consistently in a weightlifting program had less injuries from weightlifting versus basketball or football players getting injured during their sports. Cool, right?! So resistance training can be safer than a lot of different sporting activities! It is also safe and effective for improving chronic low back pain (Welch 2015, Ikeda 2021, etc.).

I Want In! What Do I Need to Do?

General recommendations for resistance training suggest at least 2-3 days per week, training each muscle group 2 times per week (i.e. shoulders twice, calves twice, etc), 2-4 sets x 5-12 reps at 50-80% of 1 Repetition Maximum (RM). If you are very new to resistance training, even 1 set of an exercise can provide initial positive effects. It would be advisable to work with a trainer, coach, or physical therapist to find your 1RM, but there is an easier way that has been well researched – using Rating Perceived Exertion (RPE). RPE can be rated on a 0-10 scale with 0 being extremely easy (you could perform 10 more reps until fatigue), 5 being a medium difficulty (you could perform 5 more reps before failure), and 10 meaning you could perform NO more reps as you are fatigued at that point. In general, aiming for an RPE of about 6-8 (only a few reps left in the tank before failure) can lead to improved strength gains.

Going to a gym would be advisable as you have access to many free weights and machines to challenge your body, however there are ways to get a good strength workout at home even if you don’t have weight equipment! You can use backpacks, laundry baskets, resistance bands, books, and other household objects. If you DON’T have access to a ton of equipment, you can make exercises harder by counting to 3-4 seconds on the way UP and the way DOWN, and you can also add PAUSES/HOLDS during the exercise to fatigue muscles even more. Two examples of total body workouts are outlined below.

Workout #1

Perform a dynamic warm up consisting of high knees, quad pulls, hamstring sweeps, warm up squats and lunges, arm circles, and any other mobility/warm up exercises you have liked in the past.

2-3 sets of 5-12 reps at RPE of 6-8 for all exercises:

  1. 1. Farmer or suitcase carries using heavy backpack with books, or laundry basket in front of you
  2. 2. Walk with 2 hands carrying object (farmer) or 1 hand at a time (suitcase)
  3. 3. Rear foot elevated single leg split squats or regular squats- holding weight in front of you or using backpack with books
  4. 4. Deadlift – Using laundry basket or heavy object in between legs
  5. 5. Pushups- Flat, incline, or decline depending on hand position
  6. 6. Bent over row- Using heavy backpack or other objects
  7. 7. Calf raises

Workout #2

2-3 sets of 5-12 reps at RPE of 6-8 for all exercises:

  1. 1. Farmer or suitcase carries
  2. 2. Pushups on counter/chair or on flat ground- Progress by adding weight to back or with slow tempo
  3. 3. Single leg bridge- Start with foot on flat ground, progress to having foot on chair
  4. 4. Single arm row in staggered stance (pretend starting a lawnmower)
  5. 5. Squat
  6. 6. Calf raises
  7. 7. If desired and if time, can add shoulder raises, bicep curls, tricep extensions

For more information on resistance training ideas that you can perform at home, give us a call at Omaha Physical Therapy Institute!

Jack Matuella, PT, DPT


Maestroni, L., Read, P., Bishop, C., Papadopoulos, K., Suchomel, T. J., Comfort, P., & Turner, A. (2020). The benefits of strength training on Musculoskeletal System Health: Practical Applications for Interdisciplinary Care. Sports Medicine, 50(8), 1431–1450.

Summitt, R. J., Cotton, R. A., Kays, A. C., & Slaven, E. J. (2016). Shoulder injuries in individuals who participate in CrossFit training. Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach, 8(6), 541–546.

Welch, N., Moran, K., Antony, J., Richter, C., Marshall, B., Coyle, J., Falvey, E., & Franklyn-Miller, A. (2015). The effects of a free-weight-based resistance training intervention on pain, squat biomechanics and MRI-defined lumbar fat infiltration and functional cross-sectional area in those with chronic low back. BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine, 1(1).

Disclaimer: This advice is educational and should not be the sole source of medical advice. Consult your licensed physical therapist or primary care physician for further questions and treatment tailored specific to you and your goals.


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