How to Work with Free Weights

free weights include dumbbells, kettlebells, and medicine balls.

A free weight is any type of weight training equipment that does not limit the range of motion with which you can use it. These types of weights are useful for building strength, speed, flexibility, balance, and muscle mass. A common type of free weight is the barbell, which allows you to load weight plates onto the ends and clamp them in place.

Other types of free weights include dumbbells, kettlebells, and medicine balls.

Benefits of Free Weights

One piece of resistance-training equipment that has been shown to be highly effective is free weights and there are several benefits to using these. Studies show that individuals who perform free weight exercises have a 58 percent greater strength increase than individuals who performed exercises on resistance-training machines. Have that, cross-trainer!

Additionally, participants who performed free weight training had a 196 percent increase in balance, versus those who performed exercises on resistance-training machines. Free weights are also both effective in increasing muscular strength and balance as they provide the added dimension of versatility, specificity to real-life movements. So, put simply: free weights are good for you.

If you plan to work with free weights, here are some guidelines for using them safely and effectively:

Don’t train alone—for safety’s sake. Work with a partner so you can serve as spotters for each and help motivate each other as well.

Always warm-up before weight training; also, be sure to stretch after training.

Breathe! Holding your breath during exertion can produce a dangerous rise in blood pressure.

Begin with relatively light weights (50 percent of the maximum you can lift), and increase the load slowly until you find the weight that will cause muscle failure at anywhere from 8 to 12 repetitions. (Muscle failure is the point during a workout at which you can no longer perform or complete a repetition through the entire range of motion.)

In the beginning, don’t work at maximum intensity. Increase your level of exertion gradually over two to six weeks to allow your body to adapt to new stress without soreness.

Always train your entire body, starting with the larger muscle groups. Don’t focus only on specific areas, although you may want to concentrate on your weakest muscles.

Always use proper form. Unnecessary twisting, lurching, lunging, or arching can cause serious injury. Remember, quality matters more than quantity. One properly performed set of lifts can produce a greater increase in strength and muscle mass than many sets of improperly performed lifts.

Work through the full range of motion. Be careful not to hyper-extend or overextend.

Geoffrey Nevine — IT Services and IT Consulting

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