Hand weights are dumbbells that help people to do strength training exercises. They are also referred to as free weights, because they are not connected to weightlifting machines. Hand weights are a common feature of gyms, circuit training, cardio fitness classes and home gyms. A free weight strength training program should be part of a workout routine that also includes cardiovascular exercise to reduce body fat. Make sure you use proper form when lifting, so that you target the correct muscles. People with joint or back problems should be extremely careful when using hand weights, because improper usage can increase the strain on your joints. Find out how to use hand weights.
1Buy or find a light set of hand weights at a gym. You should always start with lower weights and work up, so if you are creating a home gym, invest in 2, 3, 5, 8 and 10 lb. (0.9, 1.3, 2.3, 3.6 and 4.5kg) weights. You need access to a number of different weights because some muscles can bear more weight than others.
2Invest in a personal training session. If you are not familiar with proper form, including maintaining a neutral pelvis, flexing your stomach muscles and placing your elbows near your body, you should do your first few hand weight workouts under supervision. Find a gym that offers these sessions and ask for basic tutorials, so that you know how proper form should feel.
- People with back or other joint problems should schedule a session with a physical therapist to learn how to use hand weights properly. It is recommended that you use lighter weights than people without back problems to decrease the risk of hurting your joints further. Your physical therapist may recommend that you do more sets with light weights, rather than carry weights over 5 or 10 lbs (3.6 or 4.5kg).
3Warm up before you begin your strength training. Using an elliptical, swimming, rowing for at least 10 minutes is essential to increase blood flow and flexibility in your upper body. Swing your arms as you walk or run, if you do not have equipment geared towards the upper body.
4Find the proper stance for lifting hand weights while standing. You can adjust this position slightly as you sit in a chair or lean against a weight bench.
- Find a neutral pelvis. Practice by overarching your back to increase the curve. Then, do the opposite and tuck your pelvis until you do not have a curve in your back. Now, try to find a place between these 2 motions, where your back feels comfortable.
- Flex your stomach muscles in. Performing a few abdominal crunches before you lift weights can help you tap into the feeling of a flexed stomach. When you flex, imagine lifting the muscles in your stomach inward and upward. You may feel as if you are a few inches taller. You want to avoid popping your stomach muscles outward when you flex them, because this will only affect the surface muscles, not the muscles that are needed to stabilize your spine during weightlifting.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Bend your knees slightly. Locking your knees will hurt your joints and increase the likelihood that you will increase your blood pressure too much or become faint. Always maintain a bend in the knees. Keep your feet straight in front of you and lift your toes to put more weight in your heels. Make sure your knees are behind your toes during all exercises.
- Place your shoulder blades down and inward on your back. People who work in an office setting suffer from forward posture, where the shoulders creep toward the ears and forward toward the desk. Pinch your shoulder blades together a few times, so that you get the feeling of what it should feel like to keep the blades retracted slightly.
- Keep your neck straight and eyes gazing forward. People who lift hand weights have to be careful not to put too much strain on the neck. Relax your neck and put your chin down slightly so that the neck lengthens. Look straight forward, instead of looking down or up.
- Place your elbows alongside your body when you do bicep or triceps exercises. Allowing the arms to rest very slightly against the body will steady your arms and isolate the muscles. Your upper arms should usually stay completely still as you move your forearms, during many free weight exercises.
- Keep strong wrists. Never allow your wrists to curl forward or back. The weight will move into your wrist joint if you do not keep straight wrists. People with wrist problems may choose to use resistance bands instead of free weights so that they can wrap the strap around the wrist to steady it.
5Start strength training in front of a mirror. First time weight lifters will not necessarily know how weightlifting should feel on different parts of the body. Face the mirror and then turn sideways to see how your form looks from both angles.
6Move slowly, taking 5 seconds with each exercise. Every movement should be deliberate, with you retaining power, instead of allowing the weights to drop. Take at least 2 seconds with each motion and pause for 1 second between lifting and returning your weight to the starting position.
- Spend as much time, or more time, returning the weight back to your starting position, as you did lifting it. This is often called "resisting" because you are asking your muscles to resist the feeling of dropping the weights. Taking your time with the return motion will work different muscles and increase the effectiveness of your hand weight workout.
- Wait 20 to 30 seconds between sets.
7Breathe. Using hand weights will increase your blood pressure; however, you can avoid fainting or straining by breathing through the entire exercise. Exhale as you lift the weight. Inhale as you slowly return the weight to normal.
8Try common free weight exercises. The following are good examples of exercises to try with 2 to 5 lb. (0.9 to 2.3kg) weights.
- Do bicep curls. Grab a light weight in each hand and allow your arms to hand down at your sides. Stand with proper form in front of a mirror. Lift your right forearm, curling it in as far as you can to try to touch your right upper arm. Pause, then return your forearm to hand at your side by resisting the weight of gravity on your way down. Repeat on the left side. Turn sideways in the mirror to ensure you aren't rocking. Repeat 1 arm at a time or both arms at once in 3 sets of 10 to 15 curls.
- Do a shoulder press. Hold your weights. Bend your elbows and place your upper arms on the sides of your chest. Press your arms upward to the sky. Keep them parallel with your shoulders at shoulder distance apart. Pause and return slowly to the original position. Do 3 sets of 10 to 15 presses.
- Do triceps exercises. Hold your weights. Bring them up above your head until they touch. Bend forward very slightly at the waist. Keep your shoulders down and your neck straight. Move the weights behind your neck as far as you can. Pause and slowly return your arms to an almost straight position. Do 2 to 3 sets of 10.
- Do chest presses. Lay down on the ground or on a weight bench. Bend your knees. Hold the weights in your hands with your elbows bent and move your upper arms outward so they are at shoulder level. Press the weights upward and together until they touch. Pause and return your upper arms slowly to the ground. Do 3 sets of 10 presses.
- Do squats and lunges while holding hand weights to train your legs. Hold your weights at your sides. Step forward and bend both knees, making sure your leading knee does not go over your toes. Bend your back knee slightly, or until you almost touch the floor, depending upon your strength. Step back into the original position. Do 1 to 2 sets of 10 on each side.
9Progress slowly to heavier weights. Increase in increments of 1 to 2 lbs (0.4 to 0.9kg) after 3 sets of 10 no longer fatigues your muscles. The aim of weightlifting is to feel a "burn" during the last set of your exercises, so that you know your muscles are working hard to lift the weight.
- Although you should aim to fatigue your muscles during your hand weight exercises, you should never feel a loss of control. If you are unable to lift the weights for at least 2 sets while retaining proper form, move to a lighter weight.
10Do your free weight routine every other day. Allow your muscles a day to rest and repair. Do the exercises at least 3 times per week to see good results and progress to heavier weights.
11Stretch your muscles after you have finished your workout. As with cardiovascular exercise, this will help reduce the pain and soreness associated with weightlifting. Drink plenty of water and eat protein rich foods to help your muscles repair and become stronger.Advertisement
Things You'll Need
- Light hand weights
- Personal trainer/physical therapist
- Supportive shoes
- Warm up
- Proper form
- Balanced cardio/strength training exercise program