If you fear you'll end up looking like the Hulk by working out with dumbbells, stop worrying. Women lack the testosterone to bulk up, and instead of getting bigger, you'll get more defined, stronger and leaner. Rather than using strength-training machines that assist you during the exercise, do dumbbell exercises right at home. Dumbbell exercises engage your core and challenge your coordination and balance, which benefits you in everyday life. Combine your strength-training exercises with a balanced diet and a healthy dose of cardio and before you know it, you'll have a body you can't wait to show off.
If the flabby skin at the back of your upper arms is keeping you from wearing sleeveless tops, make triceps extensions part of your workout. Simply lie on your back on a bench or on the floor and extend your arms up to the ceiling while holding a set of dumbbells in your hands. With your palms facing each other, bend your elbows 90 degrees so the dumbbells move toward your head. Extend your elbows and smoothly return the weights back to the starting point. Complete three sets of eight to 12 repetitions.
To strengthen the back of your shoulders and eliminate that unsightly back fat around your bra line, do bent-over dumbbell rows. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand and come to a shoulder-width stance with your knees slightly bent, your back straight and your abdominals engaged. Bend your upper body about 45 degrees forward at your hips. Extend your right arm to the floor, keeping it directly under your right shoulder. Bend your right elbow and pull it up so your upper arm aligns with your upper body. Pause one second and slowly return to the starting position. Complete three sets of eight to 12 reps with each arm.
In addition to toning your upper body, dumbbells can also help work your lower body. Dumbbell lunges, for instance, can shape your legs and tone your tush. Take a big step forward with your right foot, come up on the toes of your left foot and bend your knees to lower your hips straight down toward the floor. Keep your right knee above your right toe and push your hips back up when your right thigh is parallel to the floor. Do three sets of eight to 12 lunges with each leg. Start with just your body weight and as you get stronger, hold dumbbells in your hand at the sides of your body.
Because sagging breasts are not in fashion, make dumbbell bench presses part of your workout. This exercise strengthens the chest muscles that help keep your breasts lifted, firm and perky. While lying on your back on a bench, extend your arms to the ceiling while holding a pair of dumbbells horizontally in your hands. Bend your elbows out to your sides and lower the dumbbells directly over your chest until your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Pause one second and push the dumbbells up to the starting point. Complete three sets of eight to 12 repetitions.
Although dumbbell exercises don't have to be difficult to be effective, you should do them with enough weight so the last repetition of each set is hard to complete. To stay challenged, gradually increase the weight as you get stronger. Monitor your exercise form in a mirror and focus on the muscles you're working. Consider hiring a personal trainer to teach you proper form, and don't start a strength-training routine without consulting your doctor, especially if you have injuries, health concerns or medical conditions.
- WebMD: Strength Training for Women
- MayoClinic.com: Video: Triceps Extension With Dumbbell
- MayoClinic.com: Video: Bent-Over Row With Dumbbell
- MayoClinic.com: Video: Lunge Exercise
- WebMD: Chest Exercises to Help Tone and More
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?
Kimberly Caines is a well traveled model, writer and licensed physical fitness trainer who was first published in 1997. Her work has appeared in the Dutch newspaper "De Overschiese Krant" and on various websites. Caines holds a degree in journalism from Mercurius College in Holland and is writing her first novel.