Make the most of your workout!
If you’re confused by fitness sites talking about “free weight exercises” – here’s all you need to know. The term is pretty simple, it refers to weights that are not within a machine – they are “free”. Not only are free weights more portable and less expensive, but free weights help you achieve two things: a toned physique and body weight stabilization, or balance.
So what are “free weights?” Generally, you’ll find 3 major types:
Dumbbells usually come in pairs, and are the smaller bar based weights you see commonly in gyms. “Dumbbells” as a word originated in Tudor England – athletes used hand-held church bells to develop the upper body and arms. You can perform many exercises with dumbbells, including unilateral bicep curls, triceps kickbacks, basic squats and others. Dumbbells are a great way to train each arm on its own to insure equal strength on both sides of your body. See my favorite exercises here.
A barbell is the longer bar based weight you commonly see in the gym, often stacked on a rack by weight size. Barbells range in length from about 4 feet to 7 feet and are often engraved with a pattern to help lifters get a good grip. Disc weights (plates) are either fixed to each end of the bar, or slid on and secured with collars to prevent them from sliding off. Like the dumbbell, a great number of exercies can be done with the barbell, including squats, dead lifts, bicep curls, and triceps extensions (‘skull crushers’). In contrast to dumbbells, barbells can provide more stability during an exercise, since you are always lifting with two arms vs. one. See my favorite exercises here.
The kettlebell has become a popular exercise tool as of late, especially in the US, though originally said to come from Russia. A kettleball is a cannonball looking iron weight, and come in a variety of sizes. Typical exercises include the kettleball swing, snatch, and windmill. I personally like to add a few kettleball exercises to keep things fresh in my otherwise standard dumbbell/barbell routines. See this site for more fun exercises.
Need help building a routine with free weights? I’ve put together a few thoughts on that in a previous post. Remember to have fun, and make the most of your workout!