Workout machines may look impressive and make it easy to perform certain weightlifting maneuvers. However, free weights can be more effective at helping you reach your fitness goals. When you use free weights, you tend to engage stabilizer muscles, extend your range of motion, and challenge gravity. Plus, you can do hundreds of exercises with a pair of weights. Here are 10 of the best exercises to do with free weights to get you started.
Top Trainer's 10 Best Exercises To Do With Free Weights
1. Russian Twists
Sit on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground. Keep your back straight, lean back until you feel engagement in your abs. Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in your hands, and twist your upper body alternately to the right and left.
2. Weighted Glute Bridge
Lie on your back, keeping your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Push up with your hips, squeezing your glutes and pressing down with your heels. Hold a weight or dumbbell over your pelvis for added resistance.
Add free weights to any form of lunge that you prefer. You can hold dumbbells, positioning your hands at your sides or bending your elbows and holding the weights above your shoulders. Try a walking lunge to challenge your balance and agility.
4. Overhead Shoulder Press
Holding a dumbbell in each hand, bend your elbows and hold your hands at shoulder level. Press the dumbbells toward the ceiling, extending your arms. Try some repetitions with your palms facing forward and others with your palms facing your ears.
5. Chest Fly
Lie on your back, and extend your arms out to your sides. Holding a weight in each hand, bring your arms up and together in front of you. Twist your palms to face your feet for an additional squeeze. You can do this exercise with your upper back on an exercise ball or bench for a challenge.
6. Dumbbell Row
Hold a weight in both hands. Bend your knees, and lean forward at the hips, keeping your back straight. Let your hands fall toward the floor until your arms are straight. Then, bend your arms, lifting the weights and drawing your elbows up and together behind your back.
7. Around the World
Hold one weight in front of you with both hands, relaxing so that the weight is in front of your pelvis, close to your body. Make a wide circle with both hands, as though you are tracing the face of a clock. Do this move in both directions.
8. Chopping Wood
Stand with your feet about 24 to 36 inches apart. Holding a weight in both hands, bend forward and to the side, bringing the weight to meet one foot. Using your legs, core, hips and shoulders, push upwards, swinging the weight diagonally so that it ends over your head on the opposite side.
9. Dumbbell Burpee
Step up your basic burpee by holding dumbbells as you perform the moves. When you’re in the push-up position, you can also pull each dumbbell up into a row to work your lats.
10. Kettlebell Swings
Holding one dumbbell or kettlebell, stand with your feet wide. Let the weight dangle between your legs. Squat down, bending forward and letting the weight move behind you. As you straighten your legs to stand, swing the weight forward until it reaches eye level.
The best exercises to do with free weights are most effective if they're done with intention and control. Don't let the weights swing wildly. Using too much momentum won't improve your strength, and it could lead to injury.