Using dumbbells or ‘free weights’ is a great way to build muscle. Starting at 1lb weight and going all the way up to 120lb, you can increase the weight you lift to achieve the muscle definition you want.
When increasing fitness and stamina you might lift lighter weights with many repetitions, when building muscle however, you need heavier weights with fewer repetitions. In fact, if you are lifting the correct weight, you should only be able to manage between 8 10 reps at a time.
To avoid serious injury, ensure that you warm up your muscles before you start. Start by rolling your shoulders and gently rock your neck from side to side, not too hard and fast to start with, work up gradually. Cross one arm across your chest and squeeze it to your body at the elbow, then do the same with the other. Reach one arm behind your back, push gently on the elbow, repeat with the other arm. Place your hands on your hips and twist at the waist to mobilise your back and waist. Ensure you stretch out your leg muscles too by performing lunges and hamstring stretches.
It cannot be stressed enough, just how important it is to warm up, a pulled muscle is painful, particularly in your back. Torn ligaments and damaged tendons are worse. Just don’t chance it.
In order to achieve balance and strength, compound exercises are vital. Compound exercises utilise groups of muscles and joints and will lead to a quicker build up of muscle. Chest and shoulder presses are good examples of compound exercises as are squats and stiff-leg dead lifts.
Select the heaviest dumbbell that you can safely manage. The heavier the weight, the harder your muscle will have to work and the quicker you will start to build muscle. However, if it is too heavy, you will simply hurt yourself. Don’t compete with others, start at your own limit and work up. Aim for around 8 12 reps and 3 5 sets of each exercise.
You should be completely in control of the weight, if you are not put it down quickly yet safely. You should exhale on the effort and inhale as your let the weight drop. Watch this as all too often, people hold their breath when they are lifting weights. Remember, your muscles need oxygen to perform at their optimum. If you hold your breath, you are starving your muscles and other organs of oxygen and you will very quickly get a head ache and/or fatigue will set in prematurely.
You can also use dumbbells to give your legs a workout. Stand with your feet shoulder distance apart, knees slightly bent. Hold the dumbbells at your side. Slowly bend at the knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Keep your back straight. Steadily come to a standing position again. Repeat. This is called a dumbbell squat.
If you want to work on a particular muscle such as your triceps, perform some isolation exercises toward the end of your workout.
Rest is just as important as the exercise. Give your muscles at least one day off after a strenuous workout, this doesn’t mean not exercising at all, just work on different muscle groups on different days. Each workout will cause wear and tear on your muscles and they need time to heal and repair themselves. A good diet will help this process. Overworking your muscles will lead to injury and will actually impede muscle development rather than help.
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