MMA fighter and personal trainer Ramona Pascual shows four simple moves to build muscle and body strength.

Building muscle and body strength is an often-overlooked part of the fitness journey. It’s not the most natural thing to practice, and many of us prefer running or yoga to lifting weights. 

ALSO READ: Tips to starting a new exercise routine and sticking to it.

But MMA fighter and personal trainer Ramona Pascual knows first hand how important it is to focus on these areas. She has a few simple moves that can put lifting into your exercise regime to achieve the toned look and muscle power you’ve been dreaming of.

For the back: one-arm dumbbell row


Place your non-working hand and knee on the bench to position your upper body horizontally and create a flat table top with your back. The working leg should be posted out to the side far enough that you can distribute your body weight equally between both legs while keeping hips level.

Grab the dumbbell with the working arm, and using a rowing motion, pull your elbow back towards the ceiling while pinching it to your side so that your elbow doesn’t flare out. Once the dumbbell is close to your waist, slowly lower to the starting position.

For the legs: dumbbell split squat

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Holding a dumbbell in each hand, place the working leg in front and non-working leg behind in a lunge position. Make sure feet are shoulder-width apart with toes pointed forward. Lift the heel of the non-working leg off the ground so that you are on your toe, which should be maintained throughout the whole movement.

Push your chest out and keep your back straight. Descend like an escalator, not an elevator, and lower yourself by moving forward. Allow your working knee to track past the toe. The non-working leg should be slightly bent and should not touch the floor. Now push through the heel of the working leg to get back to starting position.

For the shoulders, back and thighs: kettlebell swing

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Stand with feet wide and turned out. Holding the kettlebell firmly, keep your back straight and chest pushed out. Slightly bend the knees and push your hips back to lower the kettlebell. Extend at the hips and swing the kettlebell to eye level.

Let the momentum of the weight bring it back down as you slightly bend your knees and push the hips back before pushing through from the hips again.

For shoulders, arm and core: barbell shoulder press

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Let the barbell rest in a front rack position so that your elbows are in front of the bar and your hands are supporting it across the shoulders and collarbone. With a firm grip on the barbell, keep your core tight and squeeze your shoulder blades together to activate your back and tense the abs.

Push up while tilting your head back slightly, just to allow the bar to pass, then bring your head forward again until your elbows are locked. Make sure the weight is directly above your shoulders and your biceps are right by the ears. From here, slowly lower while again tilting your head back slightly to allow the bar to get back to starting position.

(Photos: Michaela Giles)

This story originally appeared in Hong Kong Tatler.

Looking for a personal trainer? Meet Murad Zaidi, the trainer who is setting a new benchmark in the health and fitness industry.

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