If you’re going to improve your exercise routine, a set of adjustable dumbbells is the thing to start with. They’re convenient, effective, and the adjustable settings provide countless options for muscle shredding workouts. Here are our 6 tips to using them at your local gym:
1. Find Out What Weights to Use
Whenever you are starting something new, you should begin slowly before diving in. This is especially true when it comes to weightlifting. To get a sense of your strength, try out the dumbbell test:
Hold two dumbbells, one in each hand, near the hips, palms forward. Curl weights up until dumbbells are at shoulder level, then lower to the starting position. Aim for 14 to 22 reps with good form.
Press your shoulders flat against a wall to ensure you’re not swinging up any weight. You don’t want to feel pain, but you do want to feel the muscle having to work hard.
If you cannot reach 14 reps with good form then use weights that are five pounds lighter. If you can easily do over 22 reps, pick a set five pounds heavier. This gives you a good sense of where to start.
2. Warm Up
Beginning any exercise without an adequate warm up can result in painful injuries. Also, do not make the mistake of stretching cold muscles. Stretching cold as preparation for lifting is dangerous and doesn’t really help.
Instead, perform at least five minutes of cardio to warm up your muscles slowly and naturally. Warming up prepares your muscles and joints for the heavy loads they are about to go under. Here are some great simple warm ups:
- jogging in place
- jumping jacks
- the boxer shuffle
The older you are the longer it takes to warm up all your muscles, so make sure not to rush and prepare your muscles in a gradual manner.
3. Listen to Your Body
When something hurts, such as a stinging or pulling sensation, stop. Over time, you should learn to feel when the muscle movements are challenging because of the strength required. This should feel different from a pain sensation.
But no matter what, listen to your body. All exercise is inherently dangerous as you push your body to new limits. If in pain, stop what you’re doing. In doubt, don’t be afraid to ask a professional or doctor for advice.
4. Don’t Rush
Never rush through a weight training movement. Using the weight or leverage to swing weights to their desired position is poor exercise. Don’t waste your own time by cheating through workouts.
Make sure to always keep breathing and perform every movement slowly and effectively. Better to do it slow and correctly than to rush an incorrect position. You may injure yourself and won’t get any strength training benefits from performing poorly.
5. Challenge Large and Small Muscle Groups
For maximum results, use dumbbells to exercise all muscle groups. One of the best advantages of your adjustable dumbbell sets is having a variety of weights to challenge large and small muscle groups.
There are hundreds of exercises that incorporate dumbbells to build up every muscle group. Here are some great basics to begin with:
- The squat. The squat is one of the most basic and fundamental exercises everyone should learn. It challenges large muscle groups quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves, but also creates an anabolic environment, promoting body-wide muscle building. By challenging large muscle groups the squat is an excellent way to get maximum calorie burn.
Here’s how to do it: Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointing straight ahead or slightly out. Hold weights in each hand with elbows bent, and weights just above your shoulders. Sit back into your heels, slowly dropping your butt and hips back and down.
Knees should bend over the toes. Try to keep your shoulders and chest tall. Don’t bend forward and push your butt out. At bottom of squat, press through your heels, and return to standing position.
- Glute bridge chest press. You’ve probably seen, at the gym or in the movies, a big buff dude with huge pecs performing the chest press. One of the best ways to build more muscle and have a more effective calorie burn is to perform these compound exercises which challenge more muscles and perform more than one exercise in one go. The glute bridge chest press is one of the greats.
Here’s how to do it: Lie down on the ground on your back, knees bent, feet firmly planted on the ground, with one dumbbell in each hand. Push up through your heels and raise your lower back and butt off the ground.
Push the dumbbells up above your chest, perpendicular to your body. Try to keep the rest of your muscles from moving. Bending one elbow so the arm creates a 90 degree angle, lower the dumbbell down to your chest, keeping the other arm raised. Push dumbbell back to starting position. Then repeat with the other arm for one rep.
- Tricep extension. The tricep extension is an excellent workout to build strong and sexy arm definition and it’s fairly simple.
Here’s how to do it: Sit on a box or flat bench. Hold one dumbbell in each hand directly overhead with arms straight, elbows near ears. Lower the dumbbells behind your head, keeping elbows in place. Straighten your arms, and then return to starting position.
- Single-arm dumbbell row. If you’re looking to improve your posture the row is the way to go. It’s a fairly simple exercise that can simultaneously strengthen your back and shoulders.
Here’s how to do it: Using a flat bench, place feet shoulder width apart, dumbbell in right hand. Bend your left knee and place it on top of the bench. Then extend your right leg back behind you, knee slightly bent, toes on the floor.
Lean over by the hips and place left arm on the bench to stabilize yourself. Pick up dumbbell with right hand. Back flat, elbow close to body, lift the weight up towards the right side of your chest, while simultaneously squeezing your shoulders together. Slowly lower dumbbell back down. Complete reps, and then switch to the other side.
6. Always Stretch Post-Workout
As we said in tip number 2, never stretch cold muscles. You should always stretch warm muscles such as after a workout. There are many reasons to stretch after any exercise, but especially after weightlifting. Here are the top reasons:
- Stretching post exercise is vital to avoiding injuring and increasing blood flow to your muscles.
- Stretching encourages long lean muscle mass. Look taller, slimmer, and more lean by giving your muscles that extra stretch.
- Stay flexible. As muscle fibers are repaired (literally the point of exercising) you want them to grow in long and stretchy so that you do not become more inflexible. Stretching helps new muscle fibers stay stretchy and help you move more easily.
- You will recover more quickly if you stretch than if you didn’t. This means you can get back to your workout quicker and continue to reach your fitness goals.
- You will feel better. Not stretching results in more painful muscle recovery (see above).
In case you’re looking for a set of adjustable dumbbells for a home use, make sure you read this comprehensive buying guide on how to choose the best adjustable dumbbells for home use.