Mix Fitness's Blog

The Basics of Using Free Weights

Posted in Uncategorized by mixfitness on February 18, 2010
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Man performing the overhead tricep extension.

Resistance training is an effective method of training the muscles, joints, and bones. Both dumbbells and plate-loaded bars are types of free weights. When you incorporate free weights into your workouts, your personal fitness improves.


Progressive resistance training increases lean muscle which leads to improved metabolism. The American College of Sports Medicine cites reductions in body fat, increases in bone density, modest reductions in blood pressure, and improved blood lipid profiles as benefits to resistance training. Athletes, in all sports, train with free weights to improve performance. And, when performed correctly, resistance training is safe for people of all ages.


While free weights fall under the umbrella of resistance training, they have a few unique characteristics. Free weights can be used anywhere. They mimic real life, or functional, movement. Meaning, your limbs move more freely in a natural motion. Using dumbbells and weighted bars require more skill than using weight machines. Stability is required to control the weight since it is not fixed. Some exercises, especially those when the dumbbell or bar is lifted over your head, require a spotter.


Dumbbells can be used to train all the major muscles of the body. Upper body exercises include the chest press and flyes to work your chest. For your back, do one-arm rows. The military press is an example for your shoulders. Bicep curls work your biceps. Overhead extensions target your triceps. Examples of lower body exercises are squats and lunges. Simply hold a dumbbell in each hand to add extra resistance.


Many women believe working out with free weights will make them bulky. Because of this notion, women either shy away from lifting or lift insufficient amounts of weight. However, women do not have the levels of testosterone necessary to develop large muscles comparable to those of men.

Getting Started

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends resistance training 2 to 3 days per week. Allow 24 to 72 hours between days for muscle recovery. At least one set of 8 to 12 reps per muscle group is advised by the ACSM to improve muscle tone and endurance. The amount of weight lifted should fatigue your muscles. After your first month, build up to three sets per exercise.


Dumbbells vs. Bands

Posted in Uncategorized by mixfitness on June 22, 2009
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Just yesterday, I had a conversation with my mom about the difference between resistance training with bands and hand-held weights.  For whatever reason, my mom finds the bands more fun than dumbbells.  So, today’s blog was inspired by our conversation.

Resistance training is a method of muscular conditioning that involves progressive use of resistance.  It helps both your muscles and bones get stronger.  And, is a very important part of any workout routine.  The form of resistance can be a variety of items including:  dumbbells, bands, medicine balls, weighted bars, kettlebells, and body weight.  It’s great to use a variety of equipment to keep your workouts interesting and keep your muscles guessing.

Dumbbells come in many shapes and colors, but at the end of the day, are hand-held.  They provide you with the same amount of resistance throughout the exercise.  Meaning, if you lift a 5-pound dumbbell, it weighs 5 pounds at the beginning and the end of the motion.  You may be thinking, duh!  But, hold on.  Bands, too, come in lots of colors and are elastic.  The key difference between bands and dumbbells is the band’s elastic property.  And, this is what I explained to my mom.  Bands have a variable amount of resistance throughout the exercise.  The more the band stretches, the harder the exercise becomes.  Let’s use the bicep curl as an example.  To perform this exercise standing, you anchor one end of the band under your right foot and hold the opposite end in your right hand.  As you begin the curl, the band provides moderate resistance.  As you lift higher, the band provides heavier resistance.  There’s nothing wrong with that!   It’s just something to be aware of.

Bands are great to bring with you on travel since they easily fit into a suitcase without adding weight.  When using the bands, make sure that you anchor one end of the band under your foot or tie it to a doorknob or table.  Just like when using dumbells, at some point, you will need to increase to a thicker band in order to stimulate results.  So, if you’re like my mom – and prefer the bands – use them.  But, remember that variety is the spice of life.  Try all the fitness toys available to you!