Dumbbells are not just for guys trying to build big, bulky arms and shoulders. Women can use them, too, to build strength, tone muscles, protect bones from osteoporosis and increase metabolism to help control weight. Women should start dumbbell workouts with light weights, 2 to 3 pounds, and work up to about 10 pounds. Adjustable dumbbells, with plates that can be changed to change weights, are good for home use.
Make a workout schedule with exercises for each part of the body: legs, abdomen and back, shoulders and arms. Pick two or three exercises for each area and rotate them on a schedule of three a week, with rest days between sessions. You may also alternate sessions over four or five days so no two work the same muscles. Start each workout with five or 10 minutes of aerobic exercise and stretching, then follow with one set of exercises with very light weights.
Curls, Raises, Flyes
Do curls, raises and flyes to strength and tone arms. Curls are bent-arm moves, with dumbbells at your side lifted to shoulders with upper arms elbows at your side. Raises and flyes are straight-arm exercises. Hold dumbbells at arm's length at your sides and raise them in front or to the sides. Lie on your back with dumbbells at arm's length above your chest, then lower them to the side for flyes.
Presses work shoulders and arms. Lie on your back on a bench or stability ball with dumbbells at your shoulders and press them up until your arms are fully extended. You also can press with a bench back inclined at a 45-degree angle or declined, dropped downward, or while standing. The basic press move is the same -- lift the dumbbells overhead, both arms at the same time or alternating.
Squats are effective for toning hips, legs and buttocks. Hold dumbbells on your shoulders and squat down bending your hips and knees until your thighs are about parallel with the floor, then push your heels into the floor to lift your body back up. Do a similar squat with your back against a wall and dumbbells on your shoulders. Add some bicep curls while standing as an option.
Rows and Extensions
Rows and extensions work out triceps in the back of the arm, often a problem area for women. For rows, bend at the waist with dumbbells at arm's length down your body and lift them in a motion like rowing a boat. You can do rows with both arms or one at a time, or you can do them while standing on one leg, lifting the dumbbell with the coordinating arm. For extensions, hold a dumbbell overhead in both hands and lower it behind your head. You can do extensions standing, seated or lying on your back on a bench with a dumbbell in each hand.
Kickbacks also work triceps. Stand or kneel with one leg on a bench. Bend at the waist and lift dumbbells from your side behind you, one arm at a time or together if you're standing. You also can do kickbacks while sitting balanced on a stability ball.
Bob Haring has been a news writer and editor for more than 50 years, mostly with the Associated Press and then as executive editor of the Tulsa, Okla. "World." Since retiring he has written freelance stories and a weekly computer security column. Haring holds a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Missouri.