They may seem light, but that doesn’t mean hand weights can’t help you get a killer workout. Adding these tools to a range of exercises from cardio to strength training can help you tone from head to toe. Also known as dumbbells, these free weights come in a range of pounds, so select the one that helps you best reach your goals. Be aware that certain people have experienced an exaggerated rise in blood pressure when exercising with hand weights. If you have any health concerns, talk with your doctor before starting a fitness program.
Adding a pair of hand weights to your walk takes this basic cardiovascular workout and converts it into a heart-pumping strength exercise. When you are walking, adding a one- to three-pound weight transforms this lower body endurance exercise into an upper body strength session, according to “Sports Medicine.” By adding the hand weights, you increase the load on your body. This forces your heart rate to rise, helping you burn even more calories without having to increase your pace, according to “Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.”
If you really want to push your body, grab a pair of hand weights and set out to sprint. This will make your heart rate skyrocket, helping you torch some calories. Begin with a 10-minute warmup and then sprint 50 feet holding the weights. Drop the weights, turn around and sprint back weight-free. Repeat five to six times. While you are running, maintain proper form. Your arms should follow the same movement both with the weights and weightless.
Despite the light weight, strength training exercises done with these weights at high repetitions can build muscular endurance. This shows to be especially beneficial in relatively untrained individuals, compared to highly trained athletes, according to “Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.” With a pair of hand weights, you can target all your major muscle groups: arms, back, buttock, hips, chest, legs and shoulders. When selecting a weight, choose one that has you reaching muscle fatigue by 18 to 20 reps. A full body workout could include dumbbell step-ups, overhead tricep extensions, chest press, front squats, lateral raises, bicep curls and lunges. Do two to three sets with 18 to 20 reps of each exercise.
Having a solid core does more than help you flaunt a bathing suit. All your power begins in your core and then extends to your arms and legs. Your core is composed of muscles in your back, abdomen, hips and pelvis. For two moves that target all these muscles with hand weights, do the Russian twist and toe touches. For the twist, hold one weight with both hands as you lie on a stability ball resting under your upper back. Your feet should be flat on the floor and your body should form a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Extend your arms straight out from your right side. Roll your arms so they move straight above your chest and continue until they extend straight out from your left side. Repeat eight to 10 times for one set. Do three sets.
- Sports Medicine: Physiological Effects of Exercising with Handweights
- Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise: The Effect of Hand-Held Weights on the Physiological Responses to Walking Exercise
- Stack.com: Hand-Weight Sprints
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: The Effect of High-Load Vs. High-Repetition Training on Endurance Performance
- American Council on Exercise: Exercise Library
- Stack.com: Dumbbell Core Conditioning with Mark Gangloff
- MayoClinic.com: Exercise: When to Check With Your Doctor First
Fitzalan Gorman has more than 10 years of academic and commercial experience in research and writing. She has written speeches and text for CEOs, company presidents and leaders of major nonprofit organizations. Gorman has published for professional cycling teams and various health and fitness websites. She has a Master of Arts from Virginia Tech in political science and is a NASM certified personal trainer.