Build upper body muscle, burn fat, and sleep better with these 12 moves

We now know that training your muscles promotes restful shut-eye, thanks to new research

Man working out with dumbbells
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Resistance training is a great way to build muscle, get stronger, and burn fat, whether you exercise at the gym or work out at home. And, thanks to new research, we now know that it could even get you an extra 40 minutes of sleep each night.

You don't need a room full of equipment to get started either, just a set of the best adjustable dumbbells and one of the best kettlebells. You can use these weights to increase the load of bodyweight exercises or to target specific muscle groups.

If you've been struggling to get some shut-eye, it can be tempting to pack your day with activities to wear yourself out. But according to data presented by the American Heart Association, working your muscles might be the best way to get better sleep.

It's easy to imagine that going for a long jog or high-intensity run would help, but the team explored which style of exercise was best for your sleep; cardio or weights. To investigate, they recruited 386 adults and assigned them to a 12-month exercise program.

The participants were split between no exercise, aerobic-only, resistance-only, or aerobic and resistance training groups and asked to exercise for 60 minutes three times a week. The combination group split their time equally between the two styles.

The resistance training group was given the following 12 exercises. They had to do three sets of between eight and 16 repetitions for each move, though the combination group could drop this down to two sets of nine exercises instead.

Muscle-building moves to improve sleep

  • Leg press
  • Chest press
  • Lat pulldown
  • Leg curl
  • Leg extension
  • Bicep curl
  • Triceps pushdown
  • Shoulder press
  • Abdominal crunch
  • Lower back extension
  • Torso rotation
  • Hip abduction

Meanwhile, the cardio-focused participants could complete their moderate-to-vigorous intensity sessions on a treadmill, exercise bike, or recumbent bike. At the end of the 12-month trial, the researchers analyzed the data.

They found that resistance training improved sleep efficiency and quality and reduced disturbances. Those in the resistance training group who previously slept less than seven hours got an extra 40 minutes each night following the year-long program.

Although the study used 12 specific moves, you can integrate them with the best leg workouts and these chest workouts at home for a varied full-body, fat-burning, muscle-building routine.

After a session, you'll probably experience delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). The good news is you can speed up recovery by using the best protein powder for weight loss to promote muscle growth.

James Frew
Fitness Editor

James is a London-based journalist and Fitness Editor at Fit&Well. He has over five years experience in fitness tech, including time spent as the Buyer’s Guide Editor and Staff Writer at technology publication MakeUseOf. In 2014 he was diagnosed with a chronic health condition, which spurred his interest in health, fitness, and lifestyle management.

In the years since, he has become a devoted meditator, experimented with workout styles and exercises, and used various gadgets to monitor his health. In recent times, James has been absorbed by the intersection between mental health, fitness, sustainability, and environmentalism. When not concerning himself with health and technology, James can be found excitedly checking out each week’s New Music Friday releases.