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Top 10 Strength-training Exercises

A well-rounded, strength-training program doesn't have to be time-consuming. In fact, you can gain strength and improve muscle tone with as few as two 20-minute sessions per week. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) and Club Industry offer the following 10 strength-training exercises, which will allow you to target all of the major muscles without spending hours in the gym. Complete eight to 12 repetitions (reps) of each exercise and increase the weight as you become stronger.

1. Squats (hamstrings, quadricips and gluteals): With feet shoulder-width apart and a barbell balanced across your shoulders, lower yourself until your thighs are parallel to the ground, then raise yourself to the starting position (make sure you don't lean too far forward). That's a rep. You can also perform this exercise without weights.

2. Dumbbell Bench Press (pectorals, deltoids, triceps): Lying on a bench (flat, incline or decline) with your feet planted firmly on the ground, fully extend your arms upward until the inner plates of the dumbbells touch. Lower them until they almost rest on your upper chest; your elbows should be away from the body, pointing towards the floor. That's a rep.

3. Seated Row (upper back): Sit at the edge of a bench, bent at the waist, with your chest parallel to the floor, your arms perpendicular. Grasping a dumbbell in each hand, lift the weights, bringing your shoulder blades together and pointing your elbows straight back toward the ceiling, then lower the dumbbells to the starting position. That's a rep.

4. Alternating Lower-back Extensions (lower back): While lying flat on your stomach with your arms stretching in front of you, simultaneously lift your right arm and left leg off the ground a few inches, then lower them back down. That's a rep. Repeat the movement with your left arm and right leg.

5. Lateral Raise (deltoids): Stand up straight with a dumbbell in each hand. Your arms should be at your sides, palms facing inward. Keeping your arms straight, raise the dumbbells in a 45-degree arc until your arms are parallel to the floor, then lower the dumbbells back to your sides. That's a rep.

6. Pull-ups, palm-forward grip (upper back), palm-backward (biceps): With a wide grip, hang as low as possible from a pull-up bar. Cross your ankles and keep your shins parallel to the floor. Now pull your body up until your chin passes the bar. Lower to the starting position. That's a rep.

7. Dips (triceps): Support yourself by gripping both sides of parallel bars. Your upper body should be upright, with your arms straight at your sides, and your ankles should be crossed with your shins parallel to the floor. From this position, use your arms to lower yourself, stopping when your upper arms break parallel to the floor, then raise yourself up to the starting position. That's a rep.

8. Biceps Curl (biceps): Sit with a dumbbell in each hand, your arms at your sides, palms facing away from your body. Bending at the elbows, bring the dumbbells in an arc toward your shoulders, then lower the dumbbells back to your sides. That's a rep.

9. Single-leg Calf Raise (calves): Holding a bench or something else for support, place the ball of one foot on a board or step so that you are approximately two inches off the ground. Raise yourself up as high as you can on your toes, then lower your heel towards the ground, then raise yourself again. That's a rep. This can be done with or without weights. If you want to use weights, grasp a dumbbell in one hand while maintaining your balance with the other hand.

10. Crunches (abdominals): In a lying position, keep your thighs perpendicular to the floor and bend your knees so that your lower legs are parallel, ankles crossed. Rest your hands on the back of your head for support (don't pull with your hands!) and bend slightly at the waist, drawing your upper body toward your knees. Lower your body back to the floor. That's a rep.

Before beginning any exercise program, you should consult with your physician. When lifting weights, always keep control; never jerk, bounce or swing the weights. When lifting heavy weights, work with a spotter. If are unsure how to do any of these exercises, consult with one of your club's personal trainers.

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