Hand weights can get you into shape.
You don't need bulky machines and heavy barbells to build strong muscles. Hand weights can help just about anyone build upper and lower body strength. Hand weights are convenient because they can be stored at home and are also available at most fitness facilities. Using hand weights activates important stabilizing muscles along with the primary muscle being worked to build total body strength and coordination. Exercises done with hand weights are more likely to resemble those you do in real life or in athletics, making hand weight exercises practical too.
Back and Chest
A strong back and chest make you look powerful and help you easily execute daily movements that involve pushing and pulling. For the back, work with hand weights to perform bent-over rows. Stand, holding a dumbbell in each hand, and hinge forward from the hips until your back is almost parallel to the floor. Allow the dumbbells to hang toward the floor. Pull your elbows back and together, allowing the arms to shave against the rib cage. Extend the elbows to complete one repetition. You can also train the back with pullovers, rear deltoid flyes and single-arm rows.
Target the front of your torso with a dumbbell chest press. Lie on a workout bench and hold a dumbbell in each hand. Extend your arms so the weights are directly above the chest. Slowly bend your elbows so they flare out at about a 45-degree angle to your trunk and the weights almost touch the outside of your chest. Straighten the elbows to complete one repetition. You can do the chest press with the bench angled at a 35- to 45- degree incline or decline to add variation in how the pectoralis muscles are worked.
The deltoids, a three-headed muscle that makes up the rounded top of the shoulder, are easily targeted with hand-weight exercises. Shoulder presses, done by pushing the weights up and down overhead, activate the front of the deltoids. Do lateral raises to target the tops of the shoulders by standing and holding the hand weights at the sides of your thighs. Keeping your elbows straight, raise your arms until the weights are parallel to the floor and then lower your arms. For the back of your shoulders, hinge forward from the hips and, holding a hand weight in each hand, open your arms in an arc toward the sides of the room. Hug the arms back in to complete a repetition.
Biceps and Triceps
The arm muscles are commonly targeted with hand weights. Simple biceps curls, done by holding a hand weight in each hand and bending the elbow to вЂњcurlвЂќ the weight toward the shoulder, effectively train the front portion of the upper arm. Vary your grip during curls -- such as turning the palms face up or down -- to alter the way in which your biceps muscles are targeted. To build strength in the back of the upper arm, perform triceps kickbacks by holding a hand weight in each hand and hinging forward from the hips to create a 45-degree angle with the floor. Pull your elbows back so the upper arm is almost parallel to the floor and extend the elbow joint to make the arm straight. Bend the elbow to complete one repetition.
Classic lower-body, strength-training exercises intensify with the addition of hand weights. Hold a hand weight along each of your thighs as you perform stationary, walking, forward or rear lunges. Hold the dumbbells alongside your thighs or prop the dumbbells up at your shoulders as you do squats. You can hold a dumbbell in each hand as you stand and lift your heels up and down off the floor to target the calves.
Putting It All Together
For general health, one set of eight to 12 repetitions of a hand-weight exercise for every major muscle group is sufficient when done twice per week on nonconsecutive days. You should rest at least 48 hours between hand-weight workouts to allow your muscles the rest they need to become stronger. As you progress, add a second or third set for slightly greater gains. Lift weights that feel heavy by the last two or three repetitions. Once you can easily complete 12 repetitions with a certain weight, move on to a heavier hand weight.