Exercises for Free Weights

Free-weight exercises involve the use of barbells, dumbbells and weight plates. As opposed to machines, free weights force you to use stabilizing muscles when you perform exercises to maintain proper form and postural alignment. You can do free-weight exercises to work all of your major muscle groups.

Dumbbell Chest Presses

Chest presses are done with a weight bench. Lie on the bench with your feet planted on the floor and your knees bent. Hold the dumbbells straight above your chest, with your palms facing your knees. After tightening your core, lower the weights to your sides by bending your elbows. Once your upper arms are parallel to the floor and you feel a strong contraction in your chest, push the weights back up and repeat. When you lift the weights, do not let them bang into each other.

Military Press

A military press is a shoulder exercise performed with a barbell. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart while holding the bar at chest height, with a shoulder-width grip. Your palms should face forward. After contracting your abs, push the bar straight above you until your arms are just short of locking out. Slowly lower the bar to your upper chest and repeat.


Step-ups are leg and butt exercises performed with a bench. Stand behind the bench with your feet together and the dumbbells held at your sides. After you tighten your core, step onto the bench with your right foot, and then with your left foot. Step back down with your right foot, then with your left foot. Step back up, leading with your left foot, then step down, leading with your left foot. Continue to alternate each lead foot in a series of step-ups.

Good Mornings

Good mornings are done with a barbell, and they work your hamstrings and lower back. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart,and hold the bar across your shoulders, behind your neck. Your hands should be in a wide grip. After tightening your core, bend forward at the hips and lower your upper body toward the floor. As soon as you feel a strong contraction in your lower back and hamstrings, raise back up and repeat.

Lying Triceps Extensions

Lying triceps extensions are performed with dumbbells and a bench. Lie face-up on the bench, with your arms fully extended above you and your palms facing each other. Keeping your upper arms still, lower the dumbbells to the sides of your head by bending your elbows. Lift the weights back up and repeat. When doing this exercise, keep your palms facing each other, and do not let your elbows flare out to the sides.

Barbell Curls

Barbell curls work your biceps, and they are done from a standing position. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and hold the bar with an underhanded, shoulder-width grip in front of your thighs. After contracting your abs, lift the bar up toward your chest by bending your elbows. Squeeze forcefully for a second, then lower the bar back down and repeat.

About this Author

Kevin Rail has worked in the fitness industry since 2001 and has been writing since 2004. He has professional experience as a certified personal trainer, wellness coach, motivational engineer and freelance fitness writer. He currently writes a monthly column for Ron Jones High-Performance Health. Rail has a bachelor’s degree in sports management: fitness and wellness from California University of Pennsylvania.