Resistance training with dumbbells is a great way for women to sculpt and tone muscles.
Resistance training using free weights is a great way for women to build healthy bones while sculpting a beautiful body. But women often underestimate the amount of weight that nets the best results. Learning to evaluate your resistance training loads on various exercises can help you get better results from your workouts.
Dumbbells are a Girl's Best Friend
Women are sometimes intimidated by the free weight area of the gym, but training with dumbbells has many advantages over using exercise machines. The American Council on Exercise notes that free weights are more versatile than machines, allowing your body to move through its natural range of motion and recruiting stabilizer muscles that you use in everyday movements. Machines are geared toward an average-sized individual, and may not work effectively for a smaller sized woman. Dumbbells are inexpensive and space-efficient, and can easily be used in your home or office.
Tune in to Heavy Metal
When determining how much weight to use, women tend to underestimate. Fears of bulking up and looking too masculine, or culturally-driven ideas about women's strength relative to men can influence the tendency to choose lighter weights. A 2008 study of young women published in the "Journal of Strength Conditioning Research" found that women who had experienced working with a personal trainer tend to self-select heavier weights and work out at higher intensities than women who only worked out unsupervised, leading to more satisfactory results. The study results were based on percentage of individual one repetition max, or 1RM.
Finding Your Best Load
The American College of Sports Medicine, or ACSM, recommends exercising at 70 percent of 1RM to increase strength. To calculate your 1RM for any dumbbell exercise, the IDEA Health and Fitness Association outlines the following protocol: after a general cardio warmup, perform five to 10 repetitions at a weight you can manage easily; rest for one minute, then do three to five repetitions at moderate to heavy exertion; rest three to five minutes and add 5 to 10 lbs., performing as many reps as you can. Repeat until you arrive at a weight you can lift only one time with good form; multiply that amount by 70 percent to get your ideal weight load for each exercise.
Turn Up the Volume
Volume is the total amount of weight lifted in one session, a product of reps times sets times weight lifted. Once you have determined your optimal weight for each dumbbell exercise, the ACSM recommends performing one to three sets of eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise, allowing two to three minutes rest between sets. Perform dumbbell exercises two to three times per week for optimal results. As you grow stronger and you can easily perform 12 repetitions, increase your weights by 5 to 10 percent.