Whether you are a hardcore fitness fanatic, or just dipping your toe into the world of workouts, weight and strength training should be very much a part of your future plans, if not your current routine.
To newbies, the idea of weights can be intimidating – how do you know where to start, what to do, and how much to lift?
To help, we have put together everything you need to know if you are new to the world of weight lifting, and will help you pick the perfect dumbbells to start you on your journey to strength and success.
What Are The Benefits Of Strength Training?
Before we take a closer look at choosing the right weights, it is worth considering the benefits of strength training, and the ways in which lifting weights can have a positive impact on your body.
Improve Physical Strength And Endurance
Whether you lift lighter dumbbells or heavier barbells, weight lifting will boost your physical strength and your overall endurance, and this also applies to using your body weight or resistance bands.
All the time you are making your muscles resist a force it deems to be heavy, they will grow, adapt and become stronger. This can then have a positive impact on other types of exercise such as cardio.
As well as allowing you to lift heavier weights, regular strength training will also have real-world benefits by improving the functionality of your muscles.
In a world where a majority of us have largely sedentary lifestyles, even simple tasks such as carrying the groceries home can become a challenge.
With regular training, you will be able to manage basic tasks in life with greater ease, and this will be particularly advantageous as you age.
Improve Flexibility And Posture
Weight training allows you to train and work muscles that you had no idea existed, and this will increase your flexibility and overall general mobility, as well as improve your posture – a common issue thanks to modern life.
The more you train, and the stronger you get, the more your body will get used to the movements and exercises, and the more stable your core and overall body.
This boosts your balance, flexibility and ensures that you can move through life more easily, making the most of your full potential.
Reduce Risk Of Injury
Regular strength training will also reduce your risk of injury by keeping your body strong, fit, and healthy. As we mentioned, regular lifting can improve your posture by strengthening your core and your back – and these tend to be the focus of a number of injuries.
Weight training will also train you to pick up heavy items in a safe, correct manner, and this can massively reduce your risk of injury.
Increase Bone Strength
As well as strengthing your muscles, regular weight training will also help to build bone strength and density, as well as slow down the bone loss that so often comes with older age.
If you are younger, this can delay the onset of osteoporosis, and protect the hips, spine, and joints, helping you to stay active for longer, and reducing your risk of injury.
Improve Mental Wellbeing
Discipline and willpower are both essential if you want to succeed with weight lifting – if you don’t have the drive and choose to give up, then you will not see any advantages or gains – the power is in your hands.
The longer you continue, the more you will build up your own resilience, strength, and determination.
These are factors that can then have a positive impact on the rest of your life, allowing you to approach challenges and difficulties with the confidence that you can handle anything.
Pushing yourself to the limits physically means that you see how strong you truly are in every sense of the world, and allows you to tackle anything with confidence.
Building and sticking to a regular workout plan will also help you to build your discipline, and boost your ability to delay gratification – rather than expect to get the things you want instantly, you will understand that you have to wait, work, and earn the results you want.
As an added bonus, there is plenty of research to prove that regular exercise is perfect for boosting your overall mood and wellbeing, as well as giving you more confidence.
Improve Weight Loss
While cardio goes some way towards helping you lose weight, adding strength training into your routine makes an amazing difference.
Building muscle helps to boost your metabolism – that is, the amount of energy you burn throughout the day – even when you are not actively working out.
This means that you can lose weight in a faster and more effective manner, and are more likely to keep it off in the long term.
Improved Sleep And Energy Levels
Lifting weights can also have a positive impact on your sleep quality, as well as boosting your energy levels throughout the day. It is no secret that any exercise helps to improve your energy, but over time weight lifting will also help you to feel more refreshed and rested.
Types Of Weights
Before taking a closer look at choosing the right weight for you, it is useful to have an overview of the different types of weights available:
Dumbbells are a core element of any workout and can be used individually or in pairs. They are ideal for joint-isolation exercises, such as chest flyers, shoulder raises, and bicep curls, as well as any compound movements, such as bench presses, squats, and shoulder presses.
Dumbbells work through metabolic and mechanic muscle growth – the former refers to muscles being worked to fatigue, forcing the muscle cells to store more glycogen, increasing muscle size.
The latter, mechanic overload, occurs when damage is done to muscle contractors, stimulating the repair process and increasing muscles.
Dumbbells build stability and offer a deep range of motion to isolated muscles, but barbells help to build raw strength.
They are used for powerlifting, bodybuilding, and weightlifting movements, and are key in exercises such as lunges, overhead presses, deadlifts, and bench presses.
When working with barbells, you are teaching your body to use all of your muscles together in tandem to complete one goal: that is, move a heavy object.
As the name suggests, medicine balls are weighted balls, around 13.7 inches in diameter, which are commonly found in rehabilitation as well as strength training.
Predominantly used to assist with strength improvement and neuromuscular coordination, they can be useful in exercises such as squat throws, ball twists, and side to side slams.
In order to get the most out of your medicine ball, it is a good idea to have someone workout with you – they can throw the ball to you, allowing you to catch it, touch the floor with each of your hands, and then toss it back to your partner.
This also makes it great if you are looking to socialize or share a workout with a friend! Medicine balls offer an amazing full-body workout and are great to use in conjunction with other strength tools.
Sandbells are another great weight option and consist of a large bag that is filled with specially formulated sand to create weight.
This sand is constantly moving, and this means that you will need to be constantly adjusting and adapting your position in order to balance yourself and stand strong.
This means that sandbells are ideal for building your overall balance and helping you develop your stabilizer muscles, as well as keeping your muscles on their toes – this is crucial for building and developing strength.
Sandbells are great for use in lunge rotations, hip swings, and Russian twists, and offer a slightly safer alternative to barbells and dumbbells – they cause less damage if one accidentally falls on your foot, and do a lot less damage than other free weights!
Another popular option is kettlebells. These are made of cast iron, and weigh between five and over a hundred pounds, depending on your selection.
Kettlebells are ideal for a full-body workout and can be gripped using the handle at the top to carry out dynamic lifts, working your lower back, legs, and shoulders in moves such as goblet squats, one-arm rows, and chest-loaded swings.
As an added bonus, kettlebells can also be great for working on your grip strength.
Choosing The Right Weight
With all this in mind, just how do you go about choosing the right weight in your dumbbells? The process is the same for both men and women, though the specific weights involved are likely to be different.
Choosing the right weight for your body is important, as this will have the largest impact on how successful your workout is, and how effectively you are able to work towards your goals.
Ultimately, strength training allows you to build your muscular strength and build muscle mass, and the overall goal is to provide the body with a stimulus that requires it to adapt.
There are three adaptations that can be achieved – improved endurance, or seeing how long your muscles can go before fatigue sets in, increased strength – how much you can lift, and hypertrophy – – the breakdown and subsequent regrowth of muscle tissue.
In addition to weight, the number of sets or reps you perform will also impact the adaptations.
When choosing your weight, there are a few questions to check you have the right option:
- Can I feel the weight?
- Will I retain good form as I move through the exercise with this weight?
- Will I be able to maintain good form throughout every rep
- Will I be able to successfully complete all the sets
- Do I feel as though I am being challenged?
You can also test the weight by trying a few reps, and seeing if it feels too light or too heavy, and making sure that you can maintain good form throughout all the reps you need to complete.
At the same time, you need to ensure that you are struggling by the last set, to ensure that you have fully fatigued the muscle. This is the only way to force the body to adapt, and the muscles to become stronger – there should be a good balance of challenging and possible.
It is also the case that different activities and exercises will require different weights – use lighter weights for core exercises such as jackknifes and leg raises, and for anything that requires you to raise your arms above your head, such as a shoulder press.
The strength of your core will determine the weights you use for full-body workouts such as squats or weighted lunges, while you will need to use heavier weights for large muscles, allowing you to feel them working hard from the first rep.
This includes working your lower body with moves such as deadlifts – heavyweights are essential for properly fatiguing your muscles and stimulating changes in strength endurance or muscle growth.
Why Start With Light Weights
When you start working with weights, there can be a temptation to go too hard, too fast – especially for men, who may be under pressure to lift more.
It is crucial, however, to start light and build your way up – when you go too hard, weight training can turn from benefitting the body to causing serious damage.
Known as “ego lifting”, this involves using weights that are far too heavy, causing poor form – which can be harder to correct as you get further down the line – as well as serious, long-term damage to the body.
If you don’t start small, you could see your weight-lifting aspirations ending before they even started.
Mistakes To Avoid When Training
Once you have chosen the right weights for you, it is important to avoid some of the most common mistakes – these can slow down your training and reduce any results you can hope to see. Some of the most common mistakes include:
Expecting Instant Results
One of the most important things to remember when you start strength training is that you will need to work before you see results.
One of the most common mistakes is to attend your first training session, look in the mirror, and decide to give up because you do not immediately possess a six-pack and ripped biceps.
Results can take a while to make themselves known, so you need to anticipate this from the outset, and expect to play the long game to avoid disappointment. This brings us to …
Having No Goals Or Plans
Heading into weight training without a clear goal or plan in place increased your chances of failure. Make sure you know why you are starting this journey, what your goal is, and how you are going to get there.
This will keep you motivated when things get tough, and ensure that you are in it for the long haul. On the same note, make sure that you stick with your program – even if you don’t see results immediately.
Give it at least 12 weeks before you even consider making changes – this will give your plan a chance to really work.
80% of your workout happens in the kitchen, so make sure that you give your diet the same care and attention as your workout, or you run the risk of your progress stalling.
There is no point in killing it in the gym if you are eating rubbish all through the week, so make sure that you put plenty of effort into your diet.
Do your research so that you know which nutrients you need, and then put together a meal plan to keep you on track and minimize the effort you have to put in – this is more likely to keep you on track.
This applies even if you are trying to bulk up – here, you need to check out exactly how many calories you need to eat to keep you on track and make sure that this is packed with nutrition.
Focusing On Supplements
There is no denying that supplements can be a great addition to your routine, but it is important to remember that they are just that – supplements. Too many fitness fans put too much faith in supplements, but they should be used as an extra, and not a be-all and end-all.
Always remember that supplements are not a fast–track to building muscle; you will still need to put in plenty of hard work.
Just as you need to focus on your diet as much as your workout, you also need to put plenty of effort into your sleep pattern. When you sleep, your body is healing and repairing your muscles, allowing you to rebuild and recover.
You need to make sure that you are not skimping on this area; focus on getting between six and eight hours of quality sleep every night.
Neglecting Your Warm-Ups
Perhaps one of the most common mistakes made during workouts is when people fail to warm up correctly -this should be a vital part of your routine and planned properly.
As you grow and develop, your muscles and joints will get tight and start to knot – this can lead to injury and cramps if you do not warm up properly.
Take the time to learn how to warm up with just as much effort as you put into learning the correct form – your body will thank you in the long run.
Choosing the right weights is one of the most important decisions you can make to ensure that you have a safe, effective workout, and build a routine that yields results in time.
Don’t be afraid to start small and build up – as long as you keep going and stick to a plan, you will be smashing your goals in no time.