Chances are you have a set of dumbbells laying around the house or collecting spider webs in the garage. Where did those even come from? We don’t remember buying them, but there they are – waiting patiently for us. Now’s the time to dust them off and get in a quick and efficient workout!

At home or at the gym!

If you don’t have your own set of dumbbells, you can find them relatively cheap at any local sporting goods store, at department stores, or at garage sales. If you don’t want to buy dumbbells or you prefer keeping your workouts and your home life separate, you can find dumbbells in the free weights section of your gym.

What weight is best for you?

Many people who start out with weights are uncertain how many reps and sets they should be doing and what weight they should be using. This all depends on your goals and what you want to achieve. Most beginners will start in the 12-15 rep range to condition the muscles to be able to perform the exercises and then the sets and reps change. You don’t have to stick to the same routines either, sometimes adding in an endurance session (more reps, less weight) can be beneficial, or you may want to increase your strength (less reps, more weight) especially if you have a goal to be able to do x amount of pull ups or push ups… Always keep in mind that your body needs to be constantly challenged for changes to occur (if you do something long enough your muscles adapt, if you don’t change your routines regularly enough you can plateau.

Play around with the dumbbells and do a few reps of curls and arm-raises to see what weight you feel contented with. The goal is to have a weight that is comfortable, yet challenging. i.e. you need to be using the weight that is going to let you reach the max number of reps you are aiming for but no more, so that last rep that you do in each set should be a real challenge (with good form) if you can do more reps then you need to increase the weight.

Incorporate one day a week, or every other week, for heavy lifting. Be careful not to injure yourself by increasing the weight too fast. You might be surprised how heavy such a little increase can feel!

Workout ideas.

You can create your own workouts by mixing and matching exercises to fit your needs. Aim to have a complete program so that you work all your muscles. You can split your workout days if necessary – so upper body one day and lower body next day etc, if you choose to do a full body workout then leave the day after for a rest day or cardio day to allow your muscles time to recover.

Set and Repetition Examples

The following is an easy table that shows examples of how many reps and sets can be done for different phases. A more detailed explanation on what each phase is for and which one suits your goals can be found here.

Recovery30-60 seconds30-60 seconds60-90 seconds2-3 mins3-5 mins

The following are some examples of exercises you can do with dumbbells, most are isolation exercises but some are good to combine with other exercises (if you are aiming for a full body workout session) e.g. dumbbell squat into shoulder press or lunge into side raises or bicep curls etc.

Upper Body Exercises

  • Bicep Curls or;
  • 21s
  • Overhead Tricep Extensions or;
  • Tricep Kickbacks
  • Lateral Raises
  • Front Raises
  • Shoulder Press
  • Chest press
  • Bent Over Row

Lower Body Exercises

  • Dumbbell Cleans
  • Dumbbell Squats/Squat Jumps/Squat Hold, any form of squats while holding one dumbbell out in front of chest
  • Deadlifts, same technique as a bar-deadlift but with dumbbells
  • Single Leg Deadlifts, raise one leg straight back, bend at the hips and grab the dumbbell with the opposite arm, slowly straighten up to a standing position, repeat on each side.
  • Lunges/Reverse Lunges, holding dumbbells down at your sides

Core Exercises

  • Basket Twists, sit in a V position with feet off the ground and twist side to side while holding a dumbbell at chest level
  • Toe Touches, lay down flat and lift your legs and arms to meet, touching dumbbell to toes
  • Knee In-Outs, sitting in a V position with feet off the ground, move dumbbell in and out with knees

Using weights is a great way, no, the best way to get firmer, tighter muscles (that toned look most people strive for) and what comes with these results – a great body.

Micah Larsen

Micah is a traveling swim coach and personal trainer, depending on the season. She is also currently working on her Master of Science in Athletic Administration and Coaching. Micah loves to live an active lifestyle, whether she is competing in open water swims, running a road race, practicing yoga, or biking with her dogs. The main objective in her career is to... Read More

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