Muscles do not know the difference between free weights, machines, or bands. All they understand is load, fatigue, and recovery. Stressing muscles is what makes them stronger. For home workouts, free weights are an essential if you do not have regular access to a gym. You still need to work on strength training even if you prefer to exercise at home. You can get some ideas of how to use free weights here with the cartoon animation.
The Advantages of free weights:
- You lift against gravity for a concentric (positive) contraction and resist again gravity as you lower in an eccentric (negative) contraction. Both of which contribute to the strength you are trying to build.
- Dumbbells allow you to independently work each limb, so you don’t favor your stronger side. In my case, the left side of my body is stronger than my right side. My left hand is my dominant hand. I reach fatigue faster when lifting weights with my right arm when using the same weight on both arms.
- Many exercises can be functional and mimic real life activities like lifting boxed, pushing carts, etc.
- They are relatively cheap, at approximately $1-$1.50 per pound. A 10 pound dumbbell is around $11 when on sale. And they last forever. When do you hear people say, I need a new dumbbell because I wore out my old one?
- They do not take up too much floor space and are easy to store.
Disadvantages of free weights:
- Good form is important with free weights. A machine can keep your torso stable, but when using free weights you must remember to practice good form and not swing the weight with momentum.
- You can stress joints if your range of motion is too big or too quick.
- You are pretty much lifting up and down working with gravity. Diverting from this line of movement might result in injury for beginners starting out on a strength training routine. Should I mention good form again?
- It can be time consuming to change plates and safety collars. That is why I like to have three sets (light, medium, and heavy) of dumbbells so that I do not have to stop to fiddle with anything.
- You might need a spotter to help you with heavier sets.
- There is a dead zone that put no resistance on muscles. You can read the technical paper from the International Functional Electrical Stimulation Society, Inc. Google “dead zone+muscle” if you want the more details than what I am providing. Although the weight is constant, the amount of force on the muscle changes due to the changing relationships with gravity. So you can end up with stress on the middle part of the muscles where they are stronger, but not the weaker ends.
Get more out of your free weights:
- Change your relationship to gravity so that the weight will exert the majority of its force on a different part of the muscle group. For example, change the angle of the bench for chest work.
- Avoid unnecessary positions that offer no load on the muscles. For example, when doing biceps curls, avoid the 12’o clock position.
- Alternative between free weights and machines.
Having free weights is essential for a person trying to exercise at home. Rarely do we have an extra room in the house that is solely a home gym with a place for a machine and cardio equipment. If you are like me, your work out area at home is your gym/office/guest bedroom/library. Try checking out a couple of exercise dvds from your local library or netflix. Or get a couple of books with pictures that show good form on how to use your free weights. You will see how convenient free weights are for a home workout.
Until next time and thanks for stopping by.
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