Exercises With Free Weights and Dumbbells

As part of membership at many gyms, you may receive a free hour with a trainer, who will instruct you on how to use the weight machines. Unfortunately, unless you hire a trainer, you will not likely receive any instruction on the facility’s free weights. Unlike machines, free weight allows you to work within your own range of motion, and challenge your muscles in new ways.

Dumbbell Chest Press

Using a machine for the chest press locks you in to the set motion of the machine. Performing the chest press with dumbbells, however, allows you to work within your natural range of motion. You will also utilize more of your stabilizer muscles, since the machine is not stabilizing the weight for you. Lie back on a flat bench, with a dumbbell in each hand. Start the exercise with your elbows flared out to your sides, and your upper arms about parallel to the ground. Press the weights up and in, moving the weights in an arcing motion above your chest. The dumbbells should almost touch at the top of the movement as you squeeze your chest. Slowly reverse the motion back to the starting position. Repeat as desired.

Barbell Squat

This leg exercise is best done in a power rack, but if you don’t have access to a power rack, you may use dumbbells. Position a barbell on the power rack, about chest high. Step under the bar and bring it off the rack so it rests at the top of your back, below your neck. Hold the bar with both hands, just outside your shoulders. If you are using dumbbells, hold them at your shoulders. Stand with your feet about hip-width apart. Initiate the motion by pushing your hips back, and bending your knees until your thighs are almost parallel to the ground. Hold this bottom position for a count of one. Press through your heels back to a standing position. Repeat as desired.

Bent Over Row

This exercise works the back muscles. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, stand with your feet hip-width apart. Push your hips back and lean forward, keeping your back straight. Your torso should be at a 45-degree angle to the floor. Keep your weight back on your heels — shifting it forward may result in a lower-back injury. Your arms should hang straight down, with a slight bend in your elbows. Start the movement by squeezing your shoulder blades together. Follow through by bending your elbows and pulling them behind you. Keep your arms close to your body, pulling the dumbbells to your ribs. Squeeze your back and hold for one count. Repeat as desired.

About this Author

Based in Austin, Texas, Bobbi Johnson has been in the fitness industry for 12 years and has been writing fitness-related articles since 2008. Johnson is a regular contributor to Examiner.com and Suite101.com. She received her Bachelor of Arts in English and philosophy from the University of Illinois.