Free Weights – Where Do You Start?
Free weights can be one of the greatest single investments you make in your home gym. With a variety of uses across a huge spectrum of exercises, free weights can help you achieve that toned look you’re after.
The Basics of Free Weights
What are free weights? Essentially, they’re weights not attached to a machine. Think dumbbells, barbells and kettlebells. The advantage of free weights is that exercises performed with them move your body in its most natural way. With machines, your body is restricted to using a certain muscle in a certain movement that doesn’t necessarily come naturally to it. When you lift a dumbbell, for example, you utilize multiple muscles in your arm, all of which get a workout at once. With free weights, you’ll focus on two easy movements: pushing and pulling.
Where to Begin Your Free Weights Program
First, you’ll need to pick the free weights that fit your abilities and the stage of your program. Most exercises require dumbbells. Don’t progress to barbells until you’re a bit more experienced and know how to handle them safely. What weight level should you pick up? If you’re a complete novice, try ten pound free weights to begin. Make sure you can pick up the weight with relative ease. Don’t go for something too heavy just because you think it will help you build muscle faster. This is not the case. All you will succeed in doing is hurting yourself and damaging your muscles. What you’re aiming for is a free weight that you can successfully lift 10-15 times, a few repetitions in a row. Test out dumbbells until you find a weight level that suits you.
When you’re first starting out, aim for 8 to 12 repetitions, or reps, per set. Do 2 or 3 sets per exercise, with only a few seconds break between sets.
Muscle Groups To Target with Your Free Weight Workout
There are three main muscle groups you’ll be targeting in your training:
- Upper Body – front and back of arms, shoulders, chest, and upper back
- Torso – abdominals, sides of torso (obliques), and your lower back
- Legs – front and back of thighs, calfs, and buttocks
Basic Exercises for Free Weights
- Upper Body – bicep curls, tricep extension, shoulder press, bench press, and bent-over row
- Core – deadlift, decline sit up
- Torso – abdominal curls, incline dumbbell press, incline dumbbell flyes
- Legs – squats, side lunges, reverse lunges, toe raises
Your Free Weights Exercise Schedule
If your goal is to get generally fit, and you aren’t training for a particular sport or exercise, you need just a simple shake-up of the above exercises to get in shape. Pick one category and complete 2 to 4 sets of each exercise. Then wait 48 hours, pick another category, and repeat. It’s that simple. A thirty minute to one hour workout with free weights about 3 or 4 times of week is more than enough for you to start seeing the results you want.
Safety Tips for Free Weights
- Be careful when taking free weights off the rack and putting them back.
- Don’t pick up a weight off the floor without bending your knees. Never use just your back.
- Be careful when setting free weights down. Carelessly dropping them can result in injury to yourself or someone nearby, not to mention the loud clangs that will annoy anyone near you. Free weights can also seriously damage your floor.
- Use two hands when lifting weight plates and kettle bells. You can easily lose your grip and end up with injured feet or toes.
Buying Free Weights for Your Home Gym
When buying dumbbells, you have two options: buying several pairs of dumbbells of varying weights, or buying a single pair of adjustable weight dumbbells.
We believe the best and most convenient choice is buying several pairs of dumbbells. Start at your current weight level and buy 3-4 weights higher than that. This will allow you to grow into your dumbbells as your strength improves. Adjustable dumbbells may be cheaper, but they can be more uncomfortable, and require more effort.
Dumbbells come in different shapes, sizes, grips, and materials. Some might have foam grips, others metal, and still others might be coated in rubber. Find out which grip works best for you. Many people find neoprene-covered dumbbells to be the most ideal for a non-slip grip. In terms of dumbbell ends, they tend to come in circular or hexagonal ends. You might prefer the aesthetic of circular ends, but keep in mind that they can roll away where hexagonal weights will not.
Give Some Thought to Storage
Consider where you will be keeping your weights. If you’ll be keeping them outside, metal might not be the best choice, as your weights will rust over time. The amount of space for your weights will also determine how many you should get. Lastly, invest in a weight rack. It’ll keep your workout area organized and neat without looking cluttered.
RX Fitness Equipment in Thousand Oaks carries a variety of fitness equipment and accessories for every workout routine and fitness budget, including barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells and free weights of all kinds and weights. Come in and let us help you find exactly what you're looking for. And don't forget to check out Tim's best-selling book, Fitness Equipment – A Shopper's Guide, on Amazon and other online book sellers as well as in our store.
Contact Tim Adams for a free consultation or stop by the store and take something for a test drive. We’re here to help.