Two to three weight training sessions per week that last 20 to 30 minutes each can help you improve your strength and muscle tone, says MayoClinic.com. Weight-bearing exercises promote strong bones, condition connective tissues and build and tone muscles. Dumbbells are a commonly used type of free weight that exercisers use at home, in the office or at the gym. If you don't have dumbbells, there are other alternatives that are equally as effective.
Homemade Dumbbell Alternatives
It's likely you have items and supplies in and around your home that can be used in place of dumbbells. Fill disposable or refillable water bottles with water or sand for lighter weights. You can also substitute soup or vegetable cans. Although these lighter dumbbell alternatives are too light to build muscle mass, they will help you increase flexibility and tone your muscles. To make a set of heavier dumbbell alternatives, you can use heavy-duty trash bags, play sand and duct tape to make your own sandbags to lift. When used two times per week, sandbag training can help you build and tone muscle and burn fat.
Using Your Body Weight
Your own body is an effective, inexpensive and completely portable piece of strength training equipment, says Wesleyan University. No matter where you are, your body weight can provide effective resistance to help you build and sculpt muscles. Work the major muscles of your body by performing squats, lunges, pushups and dips. To increase resistance during this type of workout, you can wear a weighted belt.
If you have access to a barbell weight set, you've got all you need for strength training at home or the gym. Use the bar alone or add a challenging amount of weight to strengthen your upper body muscles with bicep and triceps curls, lateral raises and shoulder presses. Build and tone muscles in the lower body by holding the barbell and weights while performing squats, side steps and lunges. It's always wise to workout with a partner when using a barbell and weights so you can spot one another during the exercises.
The University of Arizona states that resistance band workouts are beneficial because they provide the convenience of portability, simplicity and less expense. You can even fold up a resistance band and place it in your briefcase, purse or school bag. Use resistance bands for a variety of strength training exercises, including a few you wouldn't normally be able to do with dumbbells, such as leg curls and extensions. To create stronger resistance, just pull the band taut and make it shorter. For less resistance, allow a little more slack.
Mary Ylisela is a former teacher with a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education and mathematics. She has been a writer since 1996, specializing in business, fitness and education. Prior to teaching, Ylisela worked as a certified fitness instructor and a small-business owner.