At least 150 minutes of moderate to hard workouts, three times a week is what an average individual should be getting to remain healthy and active. Exercising is great for keeping you mentally healthy and physically straight but how does one go about this? For this article, are free weights worth using if you are a beginner to either free weights or exercise itself?
Free weights are excellent for beginners. They are cheap and affordable, while also providing a multiplicity of exercises that one can do with them. They are easy to use and anyone at any age can use them. Though easy to use, always use them with caution and be safe while exercising.
As said earlier, free weights are excellent for beginners, but why? Here we will briefly explain some reasons why free weights are one of the most important types of exercise equipment that anyone and everyone should begin with.
What Are Free Weights
Before we begin discussing what makes free weights the best type of exercise equipment, let’s briefly discuss what they exactly are. As the name suggests, the weights one will use are “free”, meaning they are not attached to an apparatus.
The weights will be free to use without the restriction of a linear, dedicated movement caused by the machine itself. The weights are free enough where it will train more stability and form rather than overall lifting heavy weights. Lastly, resistance bands are not considered free weights, though they are not machine bound.
Since they are free weights, there are more risks for injuries if not properly used. Without such restrictions on the apparatus, it is common for those who lift heavier free weights than usual and having the weights free fall on their body or forcing your lift to use other unnecessary muscle groups.
For example, when one becomes too fatigued from lifting too heavy free weight such as a bicep curl, one may use their lower back to arch and gain that extra lift. And because they are free weights, again, they have more freedom of movement in which one can cheat a lift.
Lastly, some will say that machine-based weights are excellent for beginners as it reduces the risks of injuries because of the limitation of freedom the weights have and can help some get used to certain workouts they are not as familiar with without the significant worry of form and stability.
However, despite all of this, free weights are more convenient to have access to and can be done anywhere with no restriction to a proper gym. They are great for home workout routines.
Overall, free weights are amazing tools that should be used by everyone because of their accessibility and convenience.
Developing Form and Stability
As mentioned earlier, free weights help with form and stability. As opposed to machine-operated weights, you cannot go too heavy with free weights unless very experienced nor can you ignore form. Don’t get me wrong, form on machine-based is still important, but when one is on this machine-based equipment, the form can deviate slightly.
With free weights, however, the form should be at the forefront of someone’s mind while proceeding. There is no excuse for someone to be ignorant of form while using free weights, as it requires one to maintain certain exercise forms as the weights are free to move wherever. Again, this is especially true when one reaches their limits and their strength to maintain such diminishes which will cause injury immediately or over time.
Developing form is perhaps the best reason why one would use free weights, but stability as well. With form, comes stability. This will, primarily, only apply to those who are more experienced with free weights, in that they have developed a proper form for a longer exercise duration.
Being conditioned to free weights will bring about more opportunities such as being able to lift heavier weights while sustaining such form. The stability aspect prevents injury, even when one is too fatigued, and allows one to safely drop the weights with no risks.
Lifting and Cardio Exercises
Now that we have discussed the aspects of form and stability while using free weights, let’s talk about some exercises that free weights are excellent for.
Honestly, what aren’t free weights good for? Free weights are versatile in their purpose.
Here are some standard exercises:
- Bicep curls
- Triceps extensions
- Chest press (comparable to traditional bench press)
- Various squats and lunges.
Some more complex and specific exercises:
- One-handed versions of the previously mentioned exercises
- Use each weight in alternative motions rather than uniformed (instead of lifting both weights at the same time, alternate between one side to the other and repeat)
Lifting is perhaps what free weights are more known for. However, lifting is not the only function they are good for. Using free weights as resistance for cardio-based exercises is excellent as well. I personally use a weighted vest rather than dumbbells, but the fundamental purpose of using them as resistance is the same.
While safely using them, one can use them for a light jog, an incline walk, or simply as a tool for extra weight while balancing. Not much else for cardio since, personally, I do not see many people use them for cardio purposes. Lifting is the main use that free weights are usually involved and associated with.
This last segment is very important to note, in that safety is the highest priority when using free weights, especially for beginners. Here are a few suggestions:
- Personal Trainer: Hiring a personal trainer may be good for you if you can afford it. They are there to help you with lifting forms and can make suggestions, based on your current level, on what types of exercises would be excellent for you. Also, you could consider a trainer who specializes in a specific lifting or cardio type as to focus on that skill set.
- Spotter: A spotter can be anyone who can assist you when needed. This is especially applicable for those lifting on the heavier side as that can be riskier than lighter ones. If the spotter is there to assist you, you will be in good hands.
- Warm-ups/Stretching: This should be applied to any exercise, whether using free weights or not. Dynamic stretch (stretching with movement) is great for preparing for an exercise, while static (stretching without movement) is for post-workout. Keeping your body at ease and limbered throughout prevents pre- and post- injuries.
- Maintain optimal level: What we mean by this is to find weights that you can manage for a time and only go up when you are confident in your lift or cardio. In other words, never go beyond your skill level too quickly and only increase steadily.
Types of Free Weights
To conclude this article, let’s address some types of free weights and learn what each weight is used for:
- Dumbbells: These are the most recognizable type of free weights. They are excellent in just about anything, from joint-isolated exercises to compound ones. They are versatile that it would be surprising to find a gym that does not contain a selection of dumbbells.
- Barbells: These incorporate both bar and weighted plates. These are focused on raw strength and maximizing reps.
- Kettlebells: These are basically weighted balls with a handle on top. These are perfect for those focusing on dynamic-based movement exercises.
All of these are great options for anyone to start and get into. It really comes down to your current skill and strength level and the will to push forward and improve. Being familiar with the weights is one of the highest priorities along with safety. If you are not familiar with a type of free weight, either move on to a familiar one or learn it using lighter weights and/or someone more experienced to spot and train you.
Now that we have covered all of this, free weights are excellent tools for beginners and anyone experienced. Always lift what you can handle and always be safe while doing so.