With so many different kinds of free weights, and so little time for busy women to exercise, choosing which types to use for home workouts can create muscle confusion. When weighing your free-weight options, Mayo Clinic physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist Dr. Edward R. Laskowski recommends choosing equipment compatible with your fitness level, the types of exercises you want to perform, and space constraints.
Types of Free Weights
Free weights won’t become space invaders if you choose types you have enough room for at home. You can purchase pairs of dumbbells in various weight increments or adjustable-weight dumbbells for exercises such as biceps curls, triceps kickbacks and back rows. Equip your home gym with barbells or body bars ideal for chest presses and upward rows. For firming, toning or losing weight, ankle weights, weighted vests and resistance bands can make body-weight exercises such as squats, lunges and glute kickbacks even more challenging. Medicine balls and kettlebells -- cast-iron balls with handles attached at the top -- are great for developing overall functional strength.
Free Weight Benefits
A variety of affordable and portable free weights that are easy to store at home can keep your exercise routines fresh and motivating, and they'll produce gains in strength and muscle definition that you’ll always be excited to see. Free-weight workouts can also simulate functional and sport-specific movements, recruit large muscle groups simultaneously, and help to prevent bone loss in women of any age.
Periodically changing the types of free weights you use to work out can keep you progressing toward personal-best fitness goals and prevent muscle adaptation. After training hard, assure adequate rest by spacing your workouts at least two or three days apart; this will allow for adequate muscle recovery. To avoid strains or pains, the Mayo Clinic’s Dr. Laskowski advises that mastering proper weight-lifting form is even more important than the type of free weights you choose to use. Watch instructional fitness DVDs at home, or consult with a personal trainer to learn how to make every exercise set and repetition count.
A sturdy chair or bench can be used to perform many different exercises with free weights at home, but standing up will really start muscle multitasking. The American Council on Exercise recommends lifting free weights from a standing position to activate core-stabilizing muscles and strengthen virtually all body parts at the same time. Before exercising, consider health concerns and injuries. Consult with a health-care provider to determine workout intensity and which forms of free weights are the best match for you.
- MayoClinic.com: Weight Training: Free Weights Versus Machine Weights
- American Council on Exercise: Full Body/Integrated Exercises
- Bodybuilding.com: What is a Kettlebell?
- Shape: How to Build the Perfect Home Gym
- American Council on Exercise Free Weights vs. Strength Training Equipment
- National Osteoporosis Foundation: Exercise for Strong Bones
Bari Auerbach writes a fitness column and has won trophies in fitness shows. Since graduating from Florida International University in 1984 with a degree in communications, she has written for national clients; interviewed dignitaries and celebrities for magazines; and has covered topics including business, politics, fashion and food.