Improve Fitness Using Free Weights
Reach Your Goals

Using free weights gives you great workouts at home.

Find out how to get the best results with free weights, exercising safely and effectively.

Also find the best tips to know before you buy free weights.

Is your goal to improve muscle tone, lose weight or build muscle bulk?

Whatever it is, using free weights as part of your routine is important.

You need strength training exercise to gain muscle tone, which keeps your metabolism as high as possible. Strong muscles, ligaments and tendons also protect your joints from injury.

You can either do weights workouts with free weights or with machines. What's the best choice for you?

Should You Be Using Free Weights?

As long as you are injury free, you can get going with free weights, no matter what your fitness level. (If you have any injury, consult your health professional before doing any strength training.)

Yes, it's good to start with machines first, to build a basic level of strength and get used to lifting weights. But this isn't always a practical option. Access to weights machines for most people, is limited to gyms.

The more sensible and cost effective option, is to start off slow with free weights. This means using light weights, that you can lift with ease.

You should spend the first 1 or 2 weeks focusing on your balance, technique and posture for each exercise. You can avoid injury further by:

  • Not using momentum to lift. Always move steadily and within your control.

  • Learning to keep breathing during lifts. Out when lifting, in when returning.

  • Moving through the whole range of movement, without locking your joints.

  • Keeping your back straight and bending at your knees when lifting or transporting weights.

  • Making sure each weight is fastened properly on the dumbbell or barbell.

    Click here for strength training exercises with free weights. You will also find more information on technique, avoiding injury and how to create a weights workout tailored for your needs.

    The trick is to be patient. Most people I know want to see quick results. But they go about it the wrong way. Lifting moderate to heavy free weights from the start, will inevitably lead to injury. Your quick results will be long gone.

    After the first 2 weeks of familiarising yourself with light free weights, you can move on and start planning your goals and workouts (covered in the link above).

    With the foundation set, you can make swift progress and achieve your goals using free weights.

    Access To Weight Machines?

    You want, or have easy access to machines and free weights? Deciding where to best spend your time and money is a little tricky, if you don't know the facts. Here are some points to take on board:

  • Free weights are reasonably priced and give you freedom to do many different exercises. Machines are large and expensive and only allow a limited range of exercises. You get much better value for money using free weights.

  • Free weights give you versatility that machines can't. You can make your free weight workouts specific to your activity in many ways, such as exercising..
    - with the same movement speed as you would in your activity,
    - in the same ranges of movement used in your activity,
    - with similar movement patterns across many joints, matching your movements in activity.

  • Free weights work many parts of your body at the same time. This re-trains your brain to cope with extra stress for those movements, leading to improved skill (an important part of free weight training often overlooked). Machines don't help to improve skill.

  • Using free weights works your core stabilisers. Whereas machines do all the stabilising for you. This gives you a safe environment when you first start lifting weights, or when you're returning from injury.

  • It can be hard to isolate muscles with free weights. Machines do this very well, useful for strengthening a specific muscle after injury.

  • The risk of injury is greater with free weights. This generally comes from poor technique or by lifting weights which are too heavy. Machines minimise this risk. If you focus on technique and are sensible with your free weights, the risk of what I call "ignorance injuries" is minimal.

    So we've seen the ups and downs for using free weights or machines. If you have access to both, then use both in different ways.

    Use machines to lift heavier weights and isolate muscles. Use free weights to focus on whole body toning exercises and specific exercises for sports, activities and life (e.g. lifting babies). You should spend most time using free weights.

    If you're considering buying weight (resistance) machines, then I advise you to think twice. Exercising with free weights gives you better results for your whole body. Buying free weights is a much better investment.

    Free Weights Buying Tips

    Free weights generally come in 2 forms: barbells (long bar) and dumbbells (short bar). Here are tips to consider before you buy free weights:

  • The right weight.. free weight sets come in many different weight ranges. Buy according to your current strength and fitness level.

  • Adjustable weights.. it's better to buy dumbbells with plates that can slide on and off, rather than fixed weight dumbbells. As your strength grows, the weight can be adjusted.

  • Storage space.. free weights don't take up much space, but make sure you have a safe place to store them.

  • Quality.. quality free weights can be found at very good prices. If a set is much more expensive, consider if it actually offers something new or better than the rest.

  • Warranty.. check the warranty and guarantee. Free weights should last a very long time.

  • Cost.. think about how often you'll use your free weights (hopefully it'll be at least 3 times a week). Stick to your budget, spend according to your usage.

  • Materials.. Free weights come in many materials like plastic, metal and chrome. Plastic (filled with sand) weights are quite bulky, metal lasts longer but can damage your floor and chrome needs high maintenance to prevent rust.

    Free Weights On eBay

    All these dumbbells are live on eBay right now. You can find some great bargains here. A bargain means quality equipment at a good price, not just the cheapest available. Keep this in mind when placing your bid. Enjoy using free weights.

    Final Word

    Using free weights is an important part of any exercise routine. Make sure you use them properly to avoid injuries.

    Once you start using free weights, create your goals and work towards them. Keep motivated by mixing up your strength exercise with circuits.

    Include some ab ball exercises along with using free weights. Both sets of equipment are great value for money.

    Return to Fitness Equipment Apparel Guide from Using Free Weights.
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