How to Use Weights at the Gym

Changing your exercise intensity lets you create different weight workouts.

Changing your exercise intensity lets you create different weight workouts.

A gym offers you a wide variety of ways to use weights for toning, improving your bone density, training for sports or maintaining healthy muscle mass. Have some fun by incorporating barbells, kettlebells and dumbbells in different workouts that target your arms, shoulders, legs and abs. It’s easy to create effective weight workouts by varying the amount of weight you use and the number of reps you do.

Toning

Many women use dumbbells to target specific areas of the body, mistakenly thinking that those wobbles under the arms or around the thighs are simply “loose” muscles. In fact, these are fat deposits you’ll need to get rid of and replace with muscle. Toning workouts should include a variety of weighted exercises that don’t fatigue your muscles to failure each set so you can maintain your target heart rate range for aerobic exercise throughout the workout. This will help you burn more calories as you build muscle. Start with medium-speed reps for 60 seconds before switching exercises, adding more weight each week as you build strength. To target specific areas for muscle building, perform a few more reps or use more weight for those exercises, performing your reps until the last few become difficult to continue.

Kettlebell Swinging

Target your abs while burning calories with a kettlebell exercise. This weight, shaped like a bowling ball with a handle, doesn’t have a stable center of gravity, so you need to use your abs to balance yourself while you use it. This helps you build a tighter tummy. Kettlebell swinging is an effective workout for cardio, calorie burning and core building. Start with the kettlebell on the floor between your legs and lower yourself to grasp the handle by bending your knees and moving your butt backwards. Swing the kettlebell upwards by standing up, thrusting your hips forward and raising the kettlebell up to your shoulders. While holding the kettlebell, allow it to drop back down between your legs, then raise it again. Avoid using your back to do the work in order to prevent injury. Continue swinging using both hands, and then alternate with one-handed swings. Take a break every few minutes to let your muscles recover before doing another set. You may ask a gym staff member to demonstrate this technique.

Sports Workouts

Weights are effective tools for increasing your muscular endurance, which will help you when you play softball, volleyball, tennis, soccer and other sports. Create a circuit-training workout consisting of one-minute sets. Take a short break of 30 seconds or less between each exercise, and then start a new set. Use about 50 percent of the maximum weight you can lift to prevent muscle fatigue to failure. Depending on how busy the gym is, plan your exercise circuits in advance so you don’t have to wait for the equipment to become available for your next exercise. Learn how to use different weights to perform exercises, so if the dumbbells you wanted, for example, are not available, you can use a kettlebell or barbell to do the exercise.

Cardio Routines

Using weights while you perform aerobic workouts helps burn more calories and build muscle, which will increase your calorie burn throughout the day. A weighted cardio routine is similar to a toning or circuit training workout, but uses less weight and quicker reps so you can reach a higher heart rate with faster movements. Use an amount of weight that lets you perform your repetitions rapidly and doesn’t cause muscle fatigue during the last few reps. You should be able to change exercises every one or two minutes without taking a break between exercises. Start with 3- to 5-pound dumbbells until you find the right amount of weight.

General Fitness

If your goal for using weights is to maintain general muscle health and improve bone density, perform resistance exercises twice each week. Perform 10 to 15 repetitions of each exercise using an amount of weight that challenges you, but doesn’t make your muscles sore. Perform your reps at a moderate speed, using muscular effort to raise and lower the weights each time. This differs from a cardio routine, where you can let gravity drop the weights and use momentum to help lift them to prevent muscle fatigue.

 

About the Author

Sam Ashe-Edmunds has been writing and lecturing for decades. He has worked in the corporate and nonprofit arenas as a C-Suite executive, serving on several nonprofit boards. He is an internationally traveled sport science writer and lecturer. He has been published in print publications such as Entrepreneur, Tennis, SI for Kids, Chicago Tribune, Sacramento Bee, and on websites such Smart-Healthy-Living.net, SmartyCents and Youthletic. Edmunds has a bachelor's degree in journalism.

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