After addressing work and home commitments, there may be only a few hours a week left for the gym. One way to optimize your time in the weight room is to replace isolation exercises with compound moves. Compound exercises engage multiple muscles and involve several joints. For instance, one classic compound exercise -- the deadlift -- engages the erector spinae, trapezius, gluteal, core and quadriceps muscles. The hinge joints for the deadlift are the hips and knees. By working all your major muscle groups with a few exercises, you'll avoid overtraining a few isolated muscles and will have more time for aerobic activity. Strength-train on nonconsecutive days so that your muscles have a chance to recuperate. Consult your health care provider before beginning any new exercise regimen.
It is important that you select the appropriate dumbbell weight to avoid injuring your muscles. You should be able to perform at least 12 repetitions with the weight, according to the Mayo Clinic website. When you're able to perform 15 repetitions easily, graduate to a heavier dumbbell. Before you work out, spend 5 to 10 minutes doing a light aerobic activity such as walking or jumping rope to warm up your muscles. Stretch thoroughly before and after you strength-train.
By choosing to strength-train with dumbbells, you've increased the flexibility of your workout schedule considerably. Because dumbbells are portable, you can exercise at home or at work, or you can take the weights with you when you travel. Unlike barbells, dumbbells force you to lift the same amount of weight with each arm. Muscles on the dominant side of the body often are stronger and can do a greater percentage of the work when exercising with a barbell. Dumbbells also provide a greater range of motion than a barbell, giving you a more natural and more comfortable exercise motion than with a barbell, and often enabling you to work more muscle groups. The health benefits of strength training include increased bone density, better stamina, boosted energy levels and improved mental acuity. Additionally, strength training may help ameliorate the symptoms of some conditions, such as back pain, arthritis and depression. Compound exercises allow you to work multiple muscles while spending less time exercising.
One of the advantages of compound dumbbell exercises is that you will be able to work both your upper and lower body at the same time. For instance, the squat press engages the hamstrings, quadriceps, biceps, deltoids and glutes. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, and hold a dumbbell in each hand in front of your shoulders with your palms facing out. Sink your glutes toward the ground until your thighs are parallel to the floor. At the same time, push the dumbbells overhead until your arms are extended. Bend your elbows and push through your heels to straighten up into the start position. Other classic compound exercises include deadlifts, military presses, rows, weighted lunges and bench presses.
Perform each exercise slowly and methodically. Pay special attention to proper form to help avoid injury while strength training. If you are new to exercise, it may be helpful to work with a personal trainer who can show you how to use dumbbells properly. Breathe as you perform movements to keep your blood pressure low and stable. A general guideline is to exhale as you lift the dumbbells and inhale as you lower them.
Carolyn Robbins began writing in 2006. Her work appears on various websites and covers various topics including neuroscience, physiology, nutrition and fitness. Robbins graduated with a bachelor of science degree in biology and theology from Saint Vincent College.