Friday, 19 April 2024

Fitness, Strength Training, Training

6 Best Free Weight Exercises for Women & Men

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two people performing a workout together

Free weight exercises are resistance exercises where you can pick up and move “free” objects and items. These are machineless workouts that use dumbbells, adjustable dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, and/or medicine balls.

Dumbbells are recognized as the most versatile type of free weight. Free weight workouts help you to target specific areas across the upper and lower body.

In this post, we’ll look at free weights benefits and some ancient facts about dumbbell exercises. You’ll also get a look at the best free weights exercises and how to choose the right weights for you.

Dumbbell Exercises Facts

Did you know that the dumbbell was invented nearly 2000 years ago? The Ancient Greeks created the haltere, a boomerang-shaped stone, as a weightlifting object. It was also used in long jump events.

The ancient piece was also used by Indians for more than 1000 years. It was longer than the dumbbell we know today, but shorter than a barbell.

The haltere was used for many functional purposes to build size and strength for bodybuilders, sportsmen, and wrestlers.

What Are the Benefits of Free Weights Exercises?

Free weights don’t restrict your movements like machines can do. Each workout can be done with full muscle extension.

A full extension gives you some of the best results during your workout. This is because of the power of natural movements.

It’s great for losing weight or developing total body strength. Dumbbell workouts “tick every box” and can increase cardio fitness simultaneously.

Let’s dive into the benefits of dumbbells and free weight exercises.

Natural movements

We all come in different shapes and sizes, which means our movement will change from person to person. Free weights accommodate exactly that.

Several studies have looked at comparisons between free weight exercises and machine workouts. One of these studies explored the difference in muscle activation between a Smith machine and free weights bench press.

The results suggested that personal trainers should consider choosing the free weight bench press over the Smith machine bench press. The natural movement has more potential to increase upper-body muscular development.

dumbells for calisthenics workout

Even out workout imbalances

Have you noticed an imbalance when you work out with machines? For example, your upper body gets great workouts but your lower body doesn’t? Or, maybe your left arm appears bigger than your right arm?

Free weight training can assist with this imbalance. You can move each side of your body independently. You can increase reps on one side to correct any imbalances across your muscles.

Do free weight exercises anywhere

These are workouts that can be performed in the comfort of your home. Or, in a hotel, on the beach, in a garden, wherever you like!

If you’re a beginner, you’ll love the privacy of a home workout. Plus, you’ll never have to sit in traffic to get to the gym.

You’ll enjoy great results and be able to enjoy a routine that works with your schedule.

Exercise variety

There is a huge variety of exercises you can perform with free weights. You are not limited by the capabilities of a machine or piece of equipment. Grab a set of dumbbells or any evenly-weighted objects and engage in:

  • Walking lunges
  • Goblet squats
  • Bicep curls
  • Deadlifts
  • Arnold presses
  • Dumbbell flyes
  • Weighted calf raises,
  • And so much more!

Free Weights Warm Up Tips

woman performing free weight workout alone

When done properly, warm-ups can help to reduce the risk of injury. Aim to align your warm-up exercises with the free weight exercises you intend to do. For example, get your legs moving with high-knee jogging if you want to do lunges during your workout.

A tip for our digitally-inclined readers. Really focus on your warm-up and activating the right muscle groups. Zoning out on our phones while idling on a recumbent bike doesn’t translate to an effective warm-up.

6 Best Free Weights Exercises

a couple performing free weight exercises

Once you have your free weight equipment, you can design your workout. Keep in mind that your body weight is also enough for resistance.

If there is anything that stops you from moving freely, your movement specialist’s opinion is essential. Especially when it comes to your back, neck, or muscle tissue.

Workouts will be different for women who are expecting or postnatal. Find a trainer who is certified to work with pregnant women and can determine an effective, safe workout routine for you.

Let’s take a look at the best free weights exercises for you to try.

young lady performing free weights workout

Single-arm rows

The single-arm row targets the back and biceps.

  • Start with your right hand and right knee on a weight bench or knee-height flat surface.
  • Hold a dumbbell in your left hand, hanging down.
  • Keep your back in a neutral position.
  • Pull your elbow upwards, lifting the dumbbell upwards towards your torso.
  • Lower the dumbbell back down again and repeat the movement.

Tip: Try and start with 2 sets of 10-12 reps on both left and right sides. See how that feels and increase or decrease reps as needed.

Dumbbell chest press

The dumbbell chest press targets your chest muscles and triceps.

  • Lie on your back on a bench while holding your arms straight with dumbbells over your chest.
  • Bend your elbows slowly, bringing your dumbbells in a straight line down to the left and right sides of your chest.
  • Push the dumbbells back to the top where your arms lock. It should feel like a pressing movement. Ensure you activate your chest muscles.

Tip: Try and start with 3 sets of 14 -16 reps

Bulgarian split squat

The split squat targets your quads, glutes, and adductors.

  • Face your feet and hips forward while standing in front of a raised surface or bench.
  • Place your right foot backwards onto the step behind you. The top of your foot should have contact with the bench or surface.
  • Hold your dumbbells and lower down on your left leg slowly while bending your knee.
  • Stop before your knee go over your toes.
  • Lift your left leg back to its original position by pushing back up through your left foot.
  • Repeat with other leg.

Tip: Try and start with 3 sets of 8 reps on each. We advise starting with your weaker leg.

man performing free weights exercises

Goblet squat

The goblet squat targets the quads, calves, glutes, abs, arms, and grip strength.

  • Stand with your feet wide apart.
  • Hold one dumbbell or kettlebell with both hands in front of your chest.
  • Sit into a deep squat.
  • Slowly drive yourself back upwards and squeeze your glutes at the top. Repeat the action.

Tip: Aim for 2 sets of 10 reps.

Arnold press

The Arnold press targets your deltoids, triceps, and traps.

  • Sit on a bench.
  • Grip a dumbbell in each hand and hold them facing your chest, with elbows pointing downwards, parallel to your torso.
  • Spread your arms to either side so your chest opens.
  • Press your arms upwards as high as you can while rotating your hands so they face forward.
  • Bring your arms back to the starting position, with your hands again facing your chest. Repeat.

Tip:  Aim for 2 sets of 8-10 reps each.

Renegade row

The renegade row targets your traps, lats, rhomboids, delts, abs, obliques, triceps, and forearms.

  • Be in a press-up position with your hands balancing on the handles of two dumbbells.
  • Maintain a tight core.
  • Then you pull the right dumbbell up to your right side.
  • Slowly lower it back to the ground and repeat with your left side.

Tip: Start with a set of 4 reps per side. Work up from there.

Balance is key with this move. If you need more stability, place your feet further apart.

Choosing the Right Weights

Your fitness and strength will tell you how heavy your weights should be. Fitness level includes your current level of training, workout and medical history as well as your exercise aims.

Here are a few questions you need to ask yourself before selecting your weights:

  • How does the weight feel?
  • Can I keep the correct form throughout my reps with this type of weight?
  • Can I complete my entire set with these weights?
  • Am I being challenged? If so, is this maintainable during my workout

If you want to see progress, take your time. Don’t go too fast or too heavy because this may result in injury. You’ve come too far to experience pain with no gains.

Final Thoughts on Free Weight Exercises

protein shake with a blue towel and dumbells

Time to pick up your free weights and get started!

But, before you go, here are some things to keep in mind. Have a goal before you start. Aim for consistency and conscious effort. And, last but not least, prioritise form and safety above all.

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