Get Smart, Avoid the Dumbbells—4 Alternatives to Strength Training

If your doctor has told you that you need strength training to improve your health, you may be reluctant to comply. After all, when most people hear "strength training" they automatically think of dumbbells and barbells. If you are thinking the same thing, you need to toss that idea out the window. Here are some alternatives to strength training that make you feel smarter by avoiding the dumbbells. 

Resistance Training

Resistance is at the heart of building muscle. Your muscles have to exert greater force to achieve a goal when they are working against the weight of your own body. An example of this type of muscle-strengthening exercise involves hanging from a horizontal pole high enough off the ground so that your toes cannot touch the ground. Next, you pull your knees to your chest, contracting your abdominal muscles as you go. Your entire lower body is resisting your body's full hanging weight while you work controlled movements on your abs.


Isometrics is similar to resistance training, except that isometrics works muscle against muscle. For example, a dancer becomes lean and strong by pulling abs in, chest up, back straight, shoulders back and centering the entire torso in this tight formation over the balls of the feet. The dancer must maintain this throughout the choreography, or risk falling and getting injured. When several of the body's muscle groups are simultaneously working together and working against each other, muscles become stronger. 

The Pilates Reformer

The reformer machine was created by Joseph Pilates (founder of the pilates exercises). It was meant to help injured dancers regain their strength and full range of movement by having them work against the pulls and pushes of the machine. Rather than have you act upon the machine, the machine acts upon you and you have to react to stop it. The reformer can be considered brutal, which is why many people opt not to use it until they have completed several courses in floor Pilates.


Vigorous and intense yoga workouts are also excellent at strengthening muscle. Ask your doctor which type of yoga would be suitable for beginners while still training for strength. If they does not know, ask a fitness instructor of yoga, who definitely should know. Then sign up for a trial class to see if you like it.

There are many ways to get stronger and leaner this year. Learn more about strength training by visiting local gyms or consulting with your doctor.