Exercising with heavy dumbbells – this is the idea many women associate with muscular men. But you don’t have to be afraid of mountains of muscles, which women rarely develop due to other physical conditions. And dumbbell training in particular offers you many advantages, especially compared to equipment training.
We explain to you why it is, how you benefit from dumbbell training, which dumbbells you use best and show the most effective exercises in our picture gallery.
What is the difference between dumbbell training and training on equipment?
In short: In contrast to training on machines, exercises with dumbbells are not performed. In a guided movement on a machine, only individual muscles are used in isolation, such as the legs on the leg press. In addition, the range of motion for equipment training is specified. In other words: You can only perform a certain movement. This can be an advantage for beginners as it prevents incorrect execution of the exercise.
However, equipment training has one major disadvantage: since the range of motion is specified, only the target muscles are trained in isolation. The effect is often greater with dumbbell training because the entire body has to compensate for the movements and thus more muscle groups are addressed.
What dumbbells are there?
You can do free weight training with different equipment. The 3 most common types of dumbbells are:
Order here: Barbell bar
These dumbbells are used to perform many basic (complex exercises) such as squats, deadlifts, and bench presses. It is an approximately 2 meter long bar that is loaded with weight plates on both sides.
Our tip: Matching weight plates (199.95 €) with 4x 10 kg plates.
Order here: Dumbbell set by ScSports (€ 99.95)
Dumbbells are available with fixed weights and also as a loadable bar. These dumbbells are particularly suitable for isolation exercises, such as biceps curls. But they can also be used for complex exercises such as the Romanian deadlift.
Order here: Rexoo neoprene dumbbells
Order here: 16 kg kettlebell by ALEX (€ 49.95)
The kettlebell is a round weight with a handle for your hands. This dumbbell is mainly used for strength and endurance training, as well as for ballistic exercises. These are exercises in which you work against the acceleration of the dumbbell, for example by swinging.
What does weight training do?
The peculiarities of equipment training are one thing. But now it should be about the specific advantages of free weight training. Here are the 4 main benefits of free weight workouts:
1. You build strength and muscles more effectively and faster
Training with free weights is demanding in terms of coordination. For example, to do a dumbbell squat correctly, you need to use many muscles at the same time. With the squat, you not only train your legs and buttocks, but also your lower back and abdominal muscles.
In other words: The inter-muscular coordination is improved by the dumbbell training. This describes the interaction of different muscles with a specific movement. All of this results in you building muscle faster and getting stronger.
2. You train your balance
In order to keep your balance in complex exercises such as the squat, both the auxiliary and supporting muscles are significantly involved. Without these muscles, you would collapse like a wet sack, and not just during dumbbell training.
3. Your calorie consumption increases
By engaging so many muscles, your calorie consumption also increases. Because with multi-jointed exercises such as squats or deadlifts, the body’s oxygen and energy requirements are very high. You can burn up to 500 calories per hour with a crunchy dumbbell workout. Another plus: in the long term, muscle growth can help burn fat. Because: the more muscles you have, the higher your basal metabolic rate.
4. Exercising with free weights is cheaper
A pair of dumbbells is available for as little as 20 euros. With free weights you can do countless exercises in different variations. In addition: You don’t need a gym to train, which is a huge advantage in Corona times with studio closings, the risk of infection and the like. By the way: If you want to know which is the best arm workout for women, click here.
What dumbbell weight do I need?
To learn the sequence of movements, you should first resort to lighter weights. If you do the exercise properly, you can add weight. Caution: Do not increase the weight until you can do the exercise cleanly and without swing. Otherwise you can easily injure yourself. By the way, you can order the Women’s Health Body dumbbells here.
How many reps do I have to do?
Basically: Your training goal determines the number of repetitions per set. In training theory, one speaks of three different types of training:
Hypertrophy training – goal: muscle gain
Would you like to build visible muscles? Then, per exercise, do 3 to 4 sets of 6 to 12 repetitions each with 70 to 80 percent of your maximum strength. The speed is also important: it should be in a ratio of 2: 1 (eccentric / concentric). Concentric means contracting the muscle against resistance. Eccentric means that the weight is reduced in a controlled manner. Example: With a biceps curl, you lower the weight for 2 seconds (eccentric phase) and pull it up for 1 second (concentric phase). Take a 60-second break between sets.
A little hint: In this article you will find the fitness ABC for beginners with all definitions from A for Abs to Z for circuit training.
Maximum strength training – goal: strength gain
Do you want more power? Then maximum strength training is right for you. Here you do 1 to 5 repetitions per set with 100 percent of your maximum weight. In other words: The last repetition should be so strenuous for you that you can just manage it with clean execution. Important: Include a long break of up to 6 minutes after each set. Your body needs this time to recover for the next set. By the way: This is what clean deadlifts look like.
Strength endurance training – goal: lose weight or lean muscles
You want your love handles to hit the collar? Then choose the strength endurance method. The following applies here: 3 sets with 12 to 16 repetitions per set and 80 percent of your maximum strength. To lose weight, you have to reach a calorie deficit, so work up a sweat! The pauses between sets should be short, 30 seconds is usually enough.
Tip: You can find your maximum strength by doing a certain exercise with dumbbells exactly once with the correct technique. You should need a maximum of 5 attempts for this. Important: It is essential to warm up sufficiently before you determine your maximum strength. Otherwise the risk of injury is too high.
What else do I have to consider when doing dumbbell training?
Change exercises regularly. If you do the same exercises over and over again, not only will you get bored, but your muscles too. You no longer make any training progress because the body gets used to the stress stimulus. Therefore, swap out individual exercises after about 6 to 10 training units. As in other situations in life, variety is fun!
Tip: If you are new to weight training, it is advisable that you seek professional help in the form of a personal trainer who will support you with the correct execution and with the right training plan. For example, you can use our coaching zone to book experienced trainers who will advise you individually.
Exercising with free weights has many advantages: You build strength faster because you use a large number of muscles, and you increase your calorie consumption. You can also do dumbbell training anywhere and with little equipment. So: get on with the exercises in our photo gallery!
Take a lunge. The right leg is in front. Both knees are bent at 90 degrees. The upper body remains stable and upright.
While you are in the lunge, bend both arms and pull the dumbbells towards your shoulder. The palms point inwards.
10 to 12 repetitions
Grasp the dumbbells in the hammer grip and get into the push-up position. Place the dumbbells so that your wrists are just below your shoulders. Tense your stomach tightly and pull in your belly button. Your palms are facing inwards.
Bend your arms and lower your torso until your wrists are next to your body. Important: Keep your elbows close to your body. Push yourself up again.
Then pull your right arm up along the side of your body until your elbow is bent. Put it down again. The next time you do push-ups with your left arm. Continue alternately.
10 to 12 repetitions
Grasp your dumbbells and get into the squat position.
Lower your bottom until it’s lower than your knees. At the same time, raise the dumbbells to shoulder height, palms facing in.
Now you stand up and stretch your arms upwards. The palms continue to point inwards.
10 to 12 repetitions
Take a dumbbell in each hand and stand hip-width apart.
With your arms straight down, slowly bend your upper body forward until the dumbbells are at knee level, palms facing you. Keep your back straight and your knees slightly bent.
Now slowly straighten up again.
10 to 12 repetitions