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Ways to strengthen muscles

A girl hula hooping.

Having strong muscles is great. It may help you improve at sports, avoid injuries, do things you want to do, and even maintain a healthy weight. Keep reading to learn how to build better biceps — and lots of other great muscles!

Ways to work different muscle groups arrow. top

Different exercises work different muscle groups. You should try to work all of your muscles each week. Some exercises work many muscles, so this is not as hard as you might think! Check out the chart below for more info. And if you're not sure how to do the exercises, get help from an adult, like your gym teacher. 

If you do…

You will work your…

Push-ups

Chest, shoulders, arms, abdominals (abs)

Sit-ups

Abdominals (abs)

Jumping jacks

Calves (lower leg), inner/outer thighs, butt

Running

Calves, front/back thigh, abdominals (abs)

Jumping rope

Calves, thighs, abdominals (abs), shoulders, arms

Swimming

Nearly all major muscles

Dancing

Nearly all major muscles (depending on type of dance)

Walking

Arms, calves, front/back thighs, abdominals (abs)

Squats

Calves, front/back thighs, butt

Inline skating

Inner/outer thighs, butt

Hula hoop

Lower back, abdominals (abs)

Source: American Council on Exercise

What about resistance training? arrow. top

Resistance training is a way to strengthen muscles that uses things like weights and elastic bands. These tools create resistance, which is a force you work against. (You also can use your own weight to create resistance, like when you do push-ups or sit-ups.) Resistance training also sometimes is called strength-training.

Here are some tips for resistance training:

  • Get help. You need to learn how to train safely. Your best bet is to work with an instructor who has experience training people your age. Your gym teacher or coach may have suggestions.
  • Warm up. Avoid injuries by preparing your muscles for their workout. You can jog in place for five to 10 minutes.
  • Do the right amount. Experts suggest that young people do formal resistance training two or three times a week — and not two days in a row. Of course, if you do things like climb trees, swing from monkey bars, or take a brisk walk, you'll be building muscle more days a week from those activities, too, which is great.
  • Build up slowly. Muscle-strengthening exercise should not cause pain. As you get stronger, you will need to do more repetitions or use heavier weights. You will need to increase the challenge a little bit at a time, though.
  • Stay safe. You might check with your doctor to make sure you are healthy enough to do strength-training, especially if you have some kind of health problem.

Why is core strengthening important? arrow. top

Some people think your core means your abdominals (abs). But your core also includes your back, side, and butt muscles, as well as the muscles around your pelvis.

Why is it important to strengthen these muscles? Because your core plays a role in almost everything you do, including:

  • Everyday tasks like carrying an armload of books or keeping your balance on an icy street
  • Playing sports and other types of physical activity like tennis or jogging
  • Maintaining good posture when you're standing or sitting
  • Improving balance on and off the field, which may help prevent falls and injuries

You can strengthen your core with exercises like push-ups and sit-ups. For more ideas, check out our chart on ways to work different muscle groups.

 

Content last reviewed March 27, 2015
Page last updated June 24, 2015

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