In this post, we are going to discuss the basics of dumbbell training so that you can confidently enter the gym or simply work out in the comfort of your own home.
Over the years, we have noticed that women tend to be more hesitant to train with dumbbells than men. There are likely several reasons for this.
This area of weight training is often more heavily marketed towards men, even though there are clear dumbbell benefits to both male and female, and so a lot of women have never even thought about this type of training.
For those that have, the gym can be an off-putting place to train because of the fear of getting things wrong in front of other people (a fear we all have at the beginning) or worse, attracting unsolicited attention from men.
Women have a wider range of goals for training with dumbbells than men do. Some women want to lift heavy and get ripped, others want to become strong while avoiding building much bulk muscle, and then there are the countless women who aspire to have ‘Michelle Obama arms’ or what we might otherwise call a well-toned physique. The following is the blueprint for these goals:
- If your goal is to add bulk, train as heavy as you can for short sets
- If your goal is to become strong and avoid bulk muscle, concentrate on technique
- If your goal is to tone up, do HIIT using light weights (<10kg)
The thing to remember when choosing a weight is that it represents the resistance that will be placed on your muscle. This is what causes it to grow. The higher up the weight rack you go, the better for bulk muscle. When choosing a weight for this purpose, you want to pick something that is a challenge to lift, but not so heavy that your form is compromised. Go as heavy as you can while still able to perform a set of 5-6 reps. If you can go much beyond this, go heavier. If you cannot get to at least 3, go lighter.
You can also use dumbbells to develop the strength of your muscles without making them substantially larger. In fact, a lot of very challenging work can be done using light-to-medium weights. Begin by picking a weight that is within your comfort zone and then incorporate some techniques like slowing down each rep or performing moves that target the weaker part of a muscle group. If you are not particularly interested in strength training for its own sake and instead just want to tone up, go for the single-digit weights and then turn up the heat through HIIT.
Dumbbell exercises for female beginners
Whichever of the above goals you have in mind, you will need to get to grips with the following basic moves:
- Bent over row
- Bicep curl
- Shoulder press
- Lateral raise
- Bench press
- Front raise
Rather than explain these in detail here, we recommend that you use YouTube to watch a video tutorial on each, as this is a quick and easy way of learning new moves.
Lower body dumbbell exercises
Women tend to take a broader approach to dumbbells and use them to train their whole bodies.
We do not know whether the popularity of ‘bubble butts’ is what makes ladies remember to train their lower half or if women are just less obsessed with their arms and chest than men, but it is a good thing nonetheless.
Some lower body moves women will want to master are:
- Weighted squats
- Dumbbell forward/reverse lunges
- Squats with overhead press (this is a combo upper and lower body)
- Curtsy lunges
- Dumbbell swing
- Goblet squat
With a lot of these moves and other lower body ones, you can play around with how you hold your dumbbells. For example, you can put the dumbbells on your shoulders or hold one to your centre or hold them straight by your side.
We could not forget about the core either! A lot of the above engage the core too, but if you want to focus on it try:
- Russian twists
- Leg raises
- Kneeling woodchoppers
Confidence is key to perfect dumbbell workouts
Training in the comfort of your own home obviously poses no problem, but we know that training in a gym can be a hassle for women (or rather, there is a certain type of guy that hassles women in the gym).
If you know which weights to pick and you can get to grips with the moves laid out above, then you should be well able to smash a dumbbell session and feel confident while doing so.