Exercises For a Woman to do With Free Weights

A woman can do many exercises using free weights while strength training–which means doing exercises that require muscles to exert a force against some form of resistance, such as dumbbells to improve muscle strength and endurance. The Women’s Heart Foundation recommends performing strength training exercises two to three times a week for 20 minutes to yield results.

Tricep Exercise

To help tighten skin underneath a woman’s arms, National Physique Committee figure champion Mindi Smith recommends doing two-arm overhead dumbbell extensions. To perform two-arm overhead dumbbell extensions, sit erect on a bench or chair and grasp a dumbbell in both hands under the top plate. Hands should form an inverted heart shape with the weight directly overhead. Keeping upper arms stationary and elbows pointed toward the ceiling, the weight should be lowered, taking care not to hit the back of the head.

Bicep Exercise

Women can develop sleek, firm biceps without looking too bulky because their testosterone levels are only one-tenth of the amount produced by men, according to Thomas D. Fahey, a professor of Physical Education and Exercise Science at California State University. Fahey recommends hammer curls for tightening and toning biceps. To perform hammer curls from a standing position, grasp a pair of dumbbells and extend arms down with palms facing toward the body. Keeping elbows low and at sides, dumbbells should be curled up until they reach chest level. Return to the starting position and repeat the movement.

Shoulder Exercise

For women who want to look their best in an off-the-shoulder dress, Robert Kennedy, publisher of Oxygen women’s fitness magazine recommends performing seated bent-over lateral raises. To perform seated bent-over lateral raises, sit on the end of a chair or bench with feet flat on the floor. Holding one dumbbell in each hand along the sides, arms should then be raised out the sides to a height just below the ears and then lowered back down to starting position.

Back Exercise

For women to improve posture and make their waistline appear slimmer, the Women’s Exercise Network and athletic therapist/personal trainer Pam Mazzuca recommends the one-arm dumbbell row–a full-range exercise for developing strong upper back and latissimus dorsi (lat) muscles. To perform the one-arm dumbbell row, bend at the waist, with the left foot placed in a forward position and the knee slightly bent. Leaning on the left knee with the left hand, the back should be kept as straight as possible. Then while holding a dumbbell in the right hand, the right hand should be raised toward the waist, bringing the elbow up as high as possible. Without stopping, the right arm should be returned to the starting point. The dumbbell should then be placed in the left hand as the move is repeated.

Lower Body Exercises

For women who want to firm up their thighs, develop shapely calves and a build a butt that’s “curvaceous and memorable,” fitness model Tosca Reno recommends doing walking lunges and plie squats with dumbbells. To perform walking lunges with dumbbells, stand with your feet together. Then, stepping forward with the right foot, lower the body until the left knee is almost touching the floor. After returning to the start upright position, the movement continues working each leg, alternating the lunging action while moving forward.

To perform a plie squat with dumbbell, stand with a wide stance, feet apart and toes pointing outward. While holding a dumbbell in the vertical position in front of your hips, squat down, allowing the knees to point outward. Return to the standing position and repeat.

About this Author

Bari Auerbach writes a fitness column and has won trophies in fitness shows. Since graduating from Florida International University in 1984 with a degree in communications, she has written for national clients; interviewed dignitaries and celebrities for magazines; and has covered topics including business, politics, fashion and food.