Finding time to exercise when you have kids can be challenging. Whether you’re a stay-at-home mom or you work full time, most days self-care probably isn’t on top of your list. As a certified fitness instructor, I’ve put together these chest and back exercises for busy moms. Read on to get the list of exercises and tips on how to make them work in your busy schedule.
Why is exercise important for moms?
As moms, we pour out so much of ourselves to make sure the house is in order. We make the doctor’s appointments, sit in the school car line, run to the grocery store, fold endless loads of laundry. And while all of those things are important, your health and well-being is just as important.
You can’t give your family the best if you’re not at your best.
Studies have shown that regular exercise, particularly strength training, can help give you more energy, elevate your mood, improve your sleep, lower your risk for injury, improve your heart health, confidence and mental health.
While you may have grown up believing that you need to exercise for at least 60 minutes every day, that’s not actually the case.
A healthy, effective workout routine should consist of about 4-5 days of movement every week (for about 30 minutes) with 2-3 days of rest mixed in. The great thing about that schedule is that it makes it doable for a busy mom who needs to work out at home.
Chest and Back Exercises for Busy Moms
If you have a plan and structure, you can get an extremely effective workout in just 30 minutes. To help you get started, I’m sharing a simple half-hour workout to target your chest and back.
I know you may be concerned about looking “bulky” if you train those muscles, but this is a common myth. Many women believe that doing a lot of cardio will give them the lean, toned look they’re going for, but that’s actually achieved through strength training. This form of exercise helps to build muscle, which takes up less space than fat, and is very effective at burning calories even after you’ve stopped your workout.
While cardio is beneficial and will help you keep up with your kids, lifting weights will help build your strength so you can pick them up and do other everyday tasks.
The equipment you’ll need for this workout includes:
- dumbbells (what you consider a light and a heavy set)
- an exercise mat
- a box or stool you can lie on (optional)
In this workout, you have eight exercises – four for the chest and four for the back.
I like to “superset” when I have a limited amount of time, which means you go back and forth between two exercises each round.
You’ll do one round for chest followed by one round for back, which allows each muscle group to get a break but keeps you moving and efficient with your time.
Do each superset three times with 12 reps of each exercise.
Chest and Back Exercises SUPERSET #1
EXERCISE #1: Chest Press
You’ll need two dumbbells for this move. If you’re new to strength training, start with something light like 5 or 8 pounds.
As your starting position, lie down on the ground with your knees bent and your feet flat. Hold the dumbbells in your hands horizontally and lift your elbows off the ground to a hover. Your elbows should be out wide and your arms are at a 90-degree angle. Push the dumbbells up together to meet in the center at the top. Then lower back down to that hovering position.
Make sure that you come down slowly with control. This move is working your chest muscles on the way up and the way down.
You can change up this exercise in a few ways. You can isolate one muscle at a time and complete one round on the left arm and then the right. Isolating one side at a time helps to improve muscle imbalances. So if your left arm is weaker than your right, when you isolate it, it forces it to build strength vs. relying on the right arm to do the work.
You can also alternate the reps for this move, going between right and left. You can also change the time under tension, meaning you’re slowing down the movement to really feel the effect of the move.
Try going up at a normal pace, but coming down to a count of three seconds.
EXERCISE #2: Isolated Narrow Row
Now your chest will get a break as you move into a back exercise. You only need one dumbbell for this one.
To start, get into a tabletop position on all fours. Take one dumbbell in your right hand and start with it hovering over the floor. Start to lift the dumbbell up, keeping your elbow close to the side of your body, almost as if you’re pulling up a lever.
Then release it back down to the ground. Repeat this on the left side.
Once you’ve done both of those exercises, repeat the pattern two more times to complete the superset.
Chest and Back Exercises SUPERSET #2
EXERCISE #3: Chest Fly
You’ll need two dumbbells for this exercise. Lie down on the ground with your knees bent and your feet flat. Hold the dumbbells in your hands vertically and open your arms as if you’re about to give someone a big hug. Lift your elbows off the ground to a hover. Push the dumbbells up and in to meet in the center at the top.
Then lower back down to that hovering position. Make sure that you come down slowly with control.
Just like the chest press, you can change this up by isolating one arm at a time, alternating between left and right or slowing down the move.
EXERCISE #4: Glute Bridge
For this exercise, you can use one or two dumbbells depending on your comfort and strength. Stay flat on your back with your feet on the ground. Place the dumbbell(s) on your hips.
Slowly start to lift your butt and lower back into the air and then lower back down. This move targets your lower back, but it also puts the glute muscles under tension as well.
Chest and Back Exercises SUPERSET #3
EXERCISE #5: Pushups
Pushups are a classic for a reason – they’re extremely effective at working your chest muscles, core and triceps. While the thought of a standard pushup may seem intimidating, there are many variations you can do to meet your needs.
The simplest modification is doing pushups on the wall. Stand with your arms straight out in front of you and the palms of your hands resting against the wall. Start to bend your arms and lean in until your nose is almost touching the wall, and then push back out.
If you’re comfortable doing floor pushups, you can add a resistance band or fabric booty band over your upper arms. This helps to propel you back up during the pushup, giving you a little extra support.
The modification I typically use is keeping my knees on the ground for the move instead of starting from a high plank position. You can also try an incline pushup where your upper body is elevated on a surface like a chair or bench and your feet are on the floor.