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Nurse First News Blog

Top 5 Strength Training Exercises for Nurses

Posted June 29, 2020

Nursing is not only a caring type of profession but an extremely physical one as well. It’s important that nurses maintain strength and endurance for their 12-hour shifts and beyond. Maintaining a strong body will ensure your ability to keep up your nursing job for many years to come. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how incorporating exercise in your day will not only make you feel physically stronger, but mentally tough too.  Physical and mental strength are key components of the nursing field. Be the shining example to your nurse counterparts. Here are the top 5 strength training exercises for nurses to implement today! Let your endorphins run wild.


Squats are a great exercise to build strong quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves. In addition to strong legs, this exercise also gives strength to your glutes and back muscles. As a busy nurse, you need power and stamina to make it through a long shift. Squats to the rescue!

Take your time with squats to ensure you are doing them properly. A few things to keep in mind when you tackle this move is to keep your toes and knees in alignment – don’t extend your knees past your toes! Also, be sure you are sitting back into the exercise. Quality over quantity!

Single-Leg Deadlift

Single leg deadlifts are a great way to strengthen your glutes and hamstrings. The added bonus is the core and stability test you’ll get while raising your back leg. Slow and steady wins the race with this exercise. It’s so important for nurses to have a strong core and back for various job demands. The single-leg deadlift won’t disappoint.

To get the most out of this move, “Stand with your feet together. Plant the working foot and press hard into the ground. Slide the unloaded leg back behind you until it is slightly hovering off the ground. Straighten the back leg, flex the foot, and push through the heel. While maintaining a flatback with squared hips and shoulders, inhale a breath and begin to slowly hinge at the hips. Begin to bend the working side knee more for a deeper hinge and push farther back with the straight leg for more muscle recruitment of the hamstrings, glutes, and quads. After reaching the bottom position, pause for a second to work balance. Then use a power breath to return to a standing position by pressing hard into the ground and fully extending the hips. Pause at the top of each repetition in a single leg ‘standing plank,’ then repeat for desired reps.” (Karen Smith, StrongFirst)

Bicep Curl to Shoulder Press

Bicep curl to shoulder press will add strength and definition to your triceps, biceps, and shoulders. To get the most out of this workout add light weights to the exercise. Test out the weight limit that feels most comfortable, but also challenges you. It is okay for you to feel pushed to your limits, as long as you don’t have actual pain. Listen to to your body and know when to back off of the weights or take a break.

Be sure you are taking your time to do the move correctly. “Stand with your feet directly under your hips, holding a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing out. Bend the elbows, bringing the weights to your shoulders, performing a bicep curl. Stabilize your torso and keep your arms moving upward, straightening the arms above you, and performing an overhead press with the palms facing out. Bend the elbows coming back to the end of your bicep curl, then straighten the arms coming back to the starting position to complete one rep.” (Jenny Sugar, Popsugar)

Dumbbell Row

At a quick glance, the dumbbell row workout looks like a bicep and back exercise only. But, oh, it is so much more than that! Not only will you work your biceps and back, but you’ll feel the burn in your shoulders and abs too! Nurses, this is a great exercise to keep your core, arms, and back feeling strong and ready to take on any challenges at work.

To be the most effective with this workout, you’ll want to make sure you are in the right positioning. “Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand. Bend the knees slightly and bend over at the waist with your back straight. Let dumbbells hand in front of the body with arms fully extended. Contract your back, bend the arms, and pull both dumbbells up to your ribcage. Hold for one second in the top position, then lower the dumbbells to the starting position.” (MSN Lifestyle)

Reverse Lunges

You can do reverse lunges just about anywhere, this versatile exercise doesn’t require any equipment unless you want some extra resistance with dumbbells. The main muscles targeted during this workout are your quadriceps and glutes. You’ll notice that lunges do require balance, so your core gets some work as well.

To avoid overuse of your knees, be sure you are accurately engaging in the move. “Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, hands at the side or on your hips. With your right foot, step back about one and a half times your normal stride length, landing with the ball of that foot on the ground and your heel up. Lower the back leg straight down until it gently grazes the ground or close to, creating a 90-degree angle in the front leg. Push through the heel and midfoot of the front leg to return to standing, bringing your right foot back in line with your left. Repeat on the left side.” (Rachael Schultz, Women’s Health)

Wrap Up

Incorporating exercise in your daily life will be a game-changer for you. Not only will you feel strong, but your energy levels will increase too. Nurses have a demanding career, maintaining physical strength will keep you on top of your nursing game for many years to come.


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