You can gain and maintain a high degree of fitness using just your own body weight, in your own home or yard, or a city park. But, a set of dumbbells can even further enhance your fitness level. Dumbbells are very simple, durable, and inexpensive pieces of equipment. They require little or no maintenance, and can be used to work almost any body part. They are small enough where they take up minimal room.
How to care for your dumbbells
It is important to have your dumbbells at least 18 inches off the ground- you are more likely to injure yourself picking dumbbells up off the floor, bending in an awkward position, or if you are fatigued between sets. On rare occasions, your dumbbells may have a fracture but it depends on the way they are manufactured- very heavy, solid dumbbells- over 70 lbs. (31.7 Kg) – can break at the joint where the hand-grip meets the weight.
Listen for any unusual sound when you make them ring at the top of the motions, or for any obvious looseness. Plate type dumbbells in which the plates screw onto the center handgrip do need periodic tightening. Place it on the floor, hold the plate end with your feet, and turn the top plate to the right until it is tight.
Tips before you start lifting
- Always use proper form. You should be controlling the weight throughout the range of motion, not allowing momentum or gravity to assist at any point in the movement.
- Continue repetitions until form starts to degrade, then stop and rest. It is debated how many reps you should do, and how many sets. You may need some trial and error, depending on your goals, to find the optimal number of sets and reps.
- Time will also be a factor in how many reps/sets you do. Here is a maxim in fitness training: something is better than nothing. Only have time for one set of 10 reps? Do it. It is better than being sedentary, and allowing another day to pass where your muscles atrophy. Even 10 reps can arrest atrophy. You may not make gains in strength, but you will minimize loss.
Try out these 9 moves with your dumbbells for a workout challenge:
Curls: Do not allow gravity to grab the weight during the movement- don’t just let the dumbbells just drop to your sides – control them through every part of the motion.
Forearm curls: Use very light dumbbells about 15 or 20 lbs. (6.8- 9 Kg) is the max. A lot of people insist on locking arms in place by sitting and resting your forearms on your thighs, or a bench- I prefer to stand, and allow some movement in my upper arms and elbows- I find this reduces risk of injury to your wrists, by maintaining some fluidity. I do very high reps- 100, for three or four sets, curling my wrists upwards for as many as I can do, then turning my palms over and curling up , working both the forearm flexors and extensors. The pump after feels tremendous.
Triceps extensions: The best way to do these is by laying down- so your head and neck are supported- you can do this laying on the floor. Put your arms over your head, with a hammer grip on the dumbbells, raising them by bending your elbows forward.
Chest Press: This can be done lying on the floor if you do not have a bench. Bring the dumbbells together at the top of the motion, making them ring as you tap them together. Keep a slight bend in your elbows.
Flye: Again, lying on the floor if you are without a bench will work fine. For lighter weights, and more reps, keep your arms straighter, with just a slight end in the elbows. For heavier weight and fewer reps, increase the bend.
Squat: Hold a dumbbell in each hand, arms straight at your sides.
Lunge: Take your dumbbells for a walk- arms straight at your sides, do walking lunges with your dumbbells.
Video: Lunges, Push-ups, Pull-ups
Forward raises: This will work your deltoids, and also involve some secondary use of the biceps and triceps, and forearms. These are a great upper body exercise. Keep a relaxed grip on the dumbbells, palms down, and make your shoulders do the work- your arms are just going along for the ride. There is no need to go above the height of your shoulders when doing these
Video: Forward Raise
Lateral raises: Again, relaxed grip, make your shoulders do all the work, and do not go above your shoulder height. You may want to bend your knees a little and lean forward a bit at the waist- back straight- when you do these- it will be a little easier on your lower back.
Video: Lateral Raise
Check out this routine to sculpt your upper body with the help of dumbbells!