The value of free weights lies in their versatility. They can be incorporated into exercises that work nearly all the muscle groups, making it possible to get a full body workout with just one set of dumbbells, a kettlebell, or a barbell. We’ve identified some of the best stand-alone & combined exercises for a full-body workout,
- targeting specific muscle groups and
- burning fat
Links to relevant youtube videos are included below!
How to Use Free Weights for Arms
When the time comes to progress to isolation exercises, for many people arms will be at the top of the list. Here are three of the most effective exercises for strengthening the main muscles in your arms.
One of the most popular exercises and for good reason.
- Start from a neutral standing position </li
- Hold the weight in one or both hands and lift it up until your fingers nearly touch your shoulder, before returning to neutral
- Repeat as many times as you can before you lose your form
Be mindful to only lift with your bicep and avoid swinging your hips or arms as this can cause injury.
Don’t worry, it’s not as scary as the name suggests! This exercise is an accessible and effective triceps exercise.
- Start off lying down on your back with your legs bent
- Grip one weight with both hands and extend your arms above your chest
- Bend your arms from the elbow and lower the weight gradually towards your forehead
- Return to extended position and repeat
You should feel a burn in the back of your arm above your elbow. See helpful video here.
Reverse bicep curl
This exercise will work the forearms, an often-neglected muscle group.
- Start from a neutral standing position
- Grip the weight so that the back of your hand faces forward
- Lift the weight so the back of your hand moves towards your shoulder
- Return to original position and repeat
Strong forearms will give you great stability for many other exercises like chest and shoulder press. See video here.
How to Use Free Weights for Legs
You can get a great leg workout by using free weights. There are a huge number of potential leg exercises, but we’ve compiled three exercises to get you started.
The squat is a hugely effective way to build your glutes and quads, and adding a free weight will help you progress rapidly.
- Start from a standing position and grip a dumbbell in front of your thighs
- Bend your legs at the knee and until you reach a 90-degree angle
- Push evenly through your feet to return to a standing position and repeat
Make sure you lower your body slowly to maintain the correct form. It’s important that you don’t allow your knees to bend over the line of your toes as you reach the bottom of the movement, this will help prevent injuries.
There are many variations of the deadlift but this one in particular will work your hamstrings. Form is very important for this one so read the following instructions closely.
- Start in a standing position and grip one dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing your body
- Bend from the hips to lower your body and arms towards the floor while keeping your legs stiff and back straight
- Raise your body back up to the original position and repeat
It’s very important to keep your back straight during this movement to avoid injury. A common mistake is to bend from the knee, it’s okay to keep your knees a little bent throughout the movement, but you must bend from the hips in order to engage your hamstrings. See video here.
Calves are another muscle group that can sometimes be overlooked. To make sure you get a good full leg workout use calf raises to add definition and strength.
- Find a step and stand on one foot with your heel hanging over the step
- While holding a dumbbell or kettlebell, push up from your toes to raise your heel off the floor and pause
- Return back to the original position and repeat
You might find you need to start this one without a weight. This is a great exercise for isolating the calf muscles and you should feel a burn at the back of the bottom half of your leg. See video here.
How to Use Free Weights for Fat Burning
Free weights can also be incorporated with huge success into fat burning exercises. See below for two dynamic movements which are great for burning calories.
This one isn’t for the faint hearted. By adding dumbbells to the infamous burpee you’ll take your calorie burn to another level.
- Start by standing with a dumbbell in each hand on either side of your body
- Jump in the air and when your feet touch the ground plant the dumbbells on the floor in front of you before kicking your feet behind and assuming the press up position
- Spring your legs back up to your body before returning to a standing position and repeat
This is a gruelling exercise so make sure you have the regular burpee mastered before you attempt this advanced version.
Here’s another fantastic fat burning workout that utilises free weights. This one is another intense workout which will suit those who already have a good base level of fitness.
- Start from a standing position holding a dumbbell in each hand just above your shoulder with your elbows bent in front of you
- The first movement is a squat. From the squat position explode upwards, extending your legs and your arms so you are standing with the dumbbells above your head
- Return to the original position and repeat
With these exercises you can target specific muscles that you want to develop or create a workout that does a bit of everything. Check out our other blog post which talks through the best free weight products and goes into more detail about how and why these weights are effective.