Whether you have a gym membership or some free-weights at home, free-weights can be a simple and relatively cheap tool that allow a large variety of work-outs. In this article, I’ll go over a few easy free-weight exercises that you can use as a basic template to get the most out of this tool that you can.
A Note on Working Out with Free-Weights
Free-weights are usually associated with building muscle, but any exercise that you do also burns calories, which will lead to weight loss – provided that you use more calories than you eat. Muscles also burn more calories than fat, even while you are at rest, making them a double-win. Even if muscle gain isn’t your primary goal, getting some strength and endurance will help you do more of the kinds of exercises that are better at getting your heart pumping and burning those calories. If you can find a set of free-weights at a garage sale or second-hand store, picking them up can be much cheaper than joining a gym to get access to the same equipment. If the weights that you have no longer challenge you, you can always increase the intensity of the
If you can find a set of free-weights at a garage sale or second-hand store, picking them up can be much cheaper than joining a gym to get access to the same equipment. If the weights that you have no longer challenge you, you can always increase the intensity of the workout by increasing the number of times that you do an exercise, or by doing the exercises more slowly, or stopping at certain positions. These are also great ways to build endurance and tone.
Because of the way that free-weights work, most free-weight exercises are exercises of the arms and upper body, though we’ll talk about how to tweak some of them for more whole-body exercises.
The Classic Curl and its Cousins
Probably the most basic and familiar free-weight exercise is the classic curl — Holding a dumbbell in your hand with your fingers facing away from you, bring the dumbbell up toward your shoulder. It’s a simple enough exercise that mainly works your biceps, a large muscle-group just above your elbow.
There are many ways to tweak the classic curl, mainly involving where you start. If you are standing with the dumbbell down at your side and bringing it straight up, the only muscle really involved is your bicep – which is fine, that’s the target muscle. However, if you begin with your arm slightly hyper-extended – so that it isn’t at your side, but slightly further back than your feet – and then do the curl, it will help to activate the bicep more effectively, as well as work the muscles of the back of the shoulder.
Another way to tweak the curl is to add steps to it. Try the starting position for the curl mentioned above, but with the fingers facing in toward the body. Now do the standard curl, but once your hand is level with your elbow, begin rotating the hand as you lift the dumbbell above your head. Rotating the hand requires additional muscles that aren’t used in a basic curl, and activating more muscles helps to build more muscles, as well as burn more calories. Lifting the dumbbell above your head also activates muscles in the back and chest that aren’t required for a basic curl. There are specific exercises for these muscles, and if you plan on being a body-builder you’ll need to know them, but for the time being, exercises that combine motion to activate lots of muscle groups at once are an easier and quicker way to go.
The Overhead Press
A similar exercise to the curl is the over-head press. While it may look sort of like a curl, the press exercises a lot of muscle-groups that don’t get too much work from the curl.To do a curl, stand with arms up and elbows bent so that the hands are about level with the ears. With a weight in each hand and the fingers facing forward, bring the weights straight up above your head and then back down. This exercise works the upper arms, but also the upper back.
To do an overhead press, stand with arms up and elbows bent so that the hands are about level with the ears. With a weight in each hand and the fingers facing forward, bring the weights straight up above your head and then back down. This exercise works the upper arms, but also the upper back.
An interesting thing about this exercise is that it has a cable machine counterpart that works in the exact opposite way. When you do an overhead press with free-weights, the muscle action comes from working against gravity to push the weights up. When you overhead-head press on a machine, the bar is connected to a cable which pulls on weights, meaning that the muscle action comes from pulling the bar down. I think that using the machine works the muscles of the back better than using free-weights, but if you have better access to free-weights than to a machine, using what you have is what’s most important.
Lateral Raises and Pec Flyes
Another simple free-weight exercise is the lateral raise. In this exercise you start standing with a weight in each hand, fingers pointing in, and you raise your hands away from your body, until they are at shoulder length. This exercises the muscles of the shoulder, and if you can bring the weight even higher, say over your head, it will help to activate the muscles of the back and upper arm as well.
As similar exercise called the “Pec Fly” begins the way a standard lateral raise ends: arms out from the sides at shoulder length, fingers can be pointing down, or in towards you. In a Pec Fly, instead of bringing the arms up or down, you bring them together in front of you. This exercise works the muscles of the shoulders and upper back to some extent, though it mainly works the muscles of the chest.
If you can go from a lateral raise into a Peck Fly, that’s nearly a full upper-body work-out right there. Exercises like this can be great for people who may have difficulty with other exercises like swimming or chin-ups, which require a lot of upper-body work. Combining exercises can also help with the coordination required for swimming to some extent as well.
Going to a gym offers loads of benefits that you just won’t come by working out at home, but if finding some free-weights and doing your own thing is more your budget or more your style, more power to you. Just be sure to be careful, and never push yourself too far too fast.