Fit&Happier Workout of the Month: Strength Training with Free Weights

Fit&Happier Workout of the Month defined:  These are 30 minute general fitness workouts designed to offer a complete and balanced approach to strength and cardiovascular training in the most efficient way possible.  Strength training workouts will each feature a different form of resistance, or load, so that you can choose the type of resistance based on equipment availability and your preference.  These will offer full-body strength training and muscle toning with base exercises appropriate for beginners and progressions for those more experienced in strength training.  Cardio workouts are designed to get the most calorie burn possible in the time allotted.  Combo workouts combine strength and cardio training into one, efficient, full-body, calorie-burning workout.  All workouts conclude with flexibility training as no workout is complete without it.  Click on the exercises to link to step-by-step written and video instructions provided by ACE Fitness.

Free Weights: Also known as dumbbells, free weights are a terrific, versatile tool for full-body strength training for general fitness.  For women looking to build strength for boosted metabolism and fitness, as well as visibly tone muscles, a range of dumbbells from 3-10 lbs is sufficient.  These load amounts are readily available in the weight training area of most gyms.  If you want to do this workout at home, while a full set of free weights can set you back $100 and take up a ton of space, it isn’t necessary to have more than 3 dumbbell pairs in order to get the benefit of a full range of load options for these exercises.  For example, a pair each of 3 lbs, 5 lbs and 8 lbs dumbbells would cost approximately $40 and give you the ability to workout with 3, 5, 6, 8, 10 or 16 lbs of load, depending on whether you use one or two weights during any given exercise.

I prefer hour-glass shaped, neoprene-coated free weights.  They have a no-slip grip, are comfortable in your hands and usually come in a variety of bright colors making them more aesthetically pleasing compared to industrial looking dumbbells.  If you have the choice, opt for those that are hexagon shaped at the ends over those that are circular.  The circular ended ones tend to roll away from you.  And, as you progress to heavier loads for your free weight exercises, the flat edges of the hexagon ended dumbbells are more stable when holding two weights together.

Free Weight Strength & Flexibility Training Workout

Concept: Use free weights and gravity to strengthen the major muscle groups of the body.  Utilize the lowest weight possible to reach exhaustion, or maximum effort, between 10 and 16 repetitions.  If you can perform 16 or more repetitions with excellent form before reaching exhaustion, you should increase the weight amount.  If you lose form before the 10th repetition, you should decrease the weight amount.  Where noted, some exercises can also be progressed by switching from a seated to standing position or from a double leg to single leg stance.  It’s likely the correct amount of load for you will be different from one exercise to the next.

Maximum effort or muscle exhaustion means you can’t perform another repetition of the exercise without losing form and/or engaging another muscle group.  An example being, when performing biceps curls, the biceps are targeted and the movement should be only elbow flexion and extension.  As one reaches her maximum effort-point of exhaustion, the biceps may begin to feel strained or “burn” and/or the individual may begin to swing or sway at the hips or torso, engaging hip or abdominal muscles instead of the biceps muscles.

Free weight exercises allow one to work opposing muscle groups by controlling the momentum of the movement against gravity.  This is accomplished by moving more slowly on the down phase of an exercise.  Using the biceps curl example from above: when you are lifting the free weight against gravity, you are isolating the biceps on the up/lifting phase.  Assume it takes a count of 2 to perform the curl movement.  If you lower the weight to the start position at a slower pace, as in a count of 3 or 4, you are resisting against gravity’s pull while lowering the weight, which isolates the triceps muscles on the down/lowering phase.

I recommend using a cushioned, no-slip surface to perform this workout, such as an exercise mat or open area of wall-to-wall carpeting.  Be sure to have enough unobstructed space around you to allow for full range of motion of arms and legs.  Perform this workout 1-3 times per week, allowing at least 48 hours before repeating this workout.

Warm-Up: 2-5 minutes of high knee marching, swinging opposing arms to shoulder height as you lift knees to hip height or any other form of moderate cardio movement you choose.  The goal is to raise your heart-rate slightly before working your muscles.

Strength Workout: Perform the following exercise circuit in succession with no rest between exercises:

  • Overhead Triceps Extension: 10-16 repetitions. Muscles worked: triceps on the up phase (count of 2); biceps on the down phase (count of 3 or 4). Progression: To increase your load options, this exercise can be done by holding two free weights together, one weight in each hand, parallel and side-by-side to one another.
  • Squat: 10-16 repetitions. Muscles worked: core through all movements; hip flexors, hamstrings & shins on down phase (count of 4 or 5); glutes, quads & calves on up phase (count of 3). Regression: To decrease load, hold one free weight with both hands by grasping each end, holding weight parallel to floor at chest height. Progression: When you can perform more than 16 repetitions with perfect form at the maximum dumbbell weight available to you, lower the weight amount and perform Single Leg Squats, 10-16 repetitions each leg.
  • Overhead Press: 10-16 repetitions. Muscles worked: shoulders (deltoids) on up phase (count of 2); back (lats) on down phase (count of 3 or 4). Progression: perform standing
  • Ab Crunches: 10-16 repetitions. Muscles worked: abs on up phase (count of 2); back on down phase (count of 3 or 4). To perform with free weights: follow instructions for body weight crunches in link while holding one or two free weights at chest level. Hold one free weight by grasping each end with each hand with free weight parallel to the floor; hold two free weights together, side-by-side and parallel to one another.
  • Bent Over Flys: 10-16 repetitions. Muscles worked: upper back (rhomboids, traps) on up phase (count of 2); chest (pecs) on down phase (count of 3 or 4)
  • After performing each exercise once, rest for 1-2 minutes and repeat the circuit (triceps extensions through bent over flys) for a second set of each exercise.  After performing the circuit twice, perform the flexibility workout.

Flexibility Workout: Hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds and breathe deeply throughout the stretches.

  • Overhead Triceps Stretch: 20-30 seconds each arm
  • Warrior I: stretches legs & back, be sure to stretch both sides
  • Cat-Cow: targets abs, chest & back, hold each pose for 20-30 seconds
  • Cobra: stretches abs & hip flexors
  • Childs Pose: a relaxing stretch for your core & glutes to end your workout

Author’s Note: Always consult your physician before beginning any new exercise program.

Previous Fit&Happier Workouts of the Month – January: Body Weight Strength Training; February: Resistance Band Strength Training

Check back for these upcoming Fit&Happier Workouts of the Month – April: Medicine Ball Strength Training; May: Stability Ball Strength Training; June: Balance & Strength Training; July: Functional Training (Strength); August: Interval Training (Cardio); September: Schoolyard Play Workout (Combo); October: Outdoor Cardio & Strength Combo; November: Timed Circuit (Combo); December: HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training-Cardio)

Click on the link to view previous Activity-Specific Workouts of the Month: Hockey & Cross-Country Skiing, Snowboarding & Figure Skating, Golf & Softball, Distance Running, Racquet Sports, Swimming, Waterskiing & Surfing, Cycling, Rowing & Desk Jockeys, Track, Field & Court Sports, Throwing & Pitching, Dancing, Downhill Skiing

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5 comments

  1. […] Previous Fit&Happier Workouts of the Month – January: Body Weight Strength Training; February: Resistance Band Strength Training; March: Free Weight Strength Training […]

  2. […] – January: Body Weight Strength Training; February: Resistance Band Strength Training; March: Free Weight Strength Training; April: Medicine Ball Strength […]

  3. […] – January: Body Weight Strength Training; February: Resistance Band Strength Training; March: Free Weight Strength Training; April: Medicine Ball Strength Training; May: Strength Training with Stability […]

  4. […] – January: Body Weight Strength Training; February: Resistance Band Strength Training; March: Free Weight Strength Training; April: Medicine Ball Strength Training; May: Strength Training with Stability Ball; June: Strength […]

  5. […] – January: Body Weight Strength Training; February: Resistance Band Strength Training; March: Free Weight Strength Training; April: Medicine Ball Strength Training; May: Strength Training with Stability Ball; June: Strength […]

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