No machines, no problem. Free weights are simpler, cheaper and lighter than exercise machines, so they must be relatively worthless, deserving of the dust they’re prone to collect in people’s basements and hotel gyms. Free weights are amazing for both building strength and improving overall mobility and movement quality. Try these six free-weight exercises to meet your fitness goals and hopefully avoid injury.
#1 Dumbbell Deadlifts.
This exercise emphasizes core, hamstrings, glutes and low back. To perform it, stand a few steps away from a wall, brace your core and breathe while hinging your hips back. Focus on keeping your back flat, your shoulders engaged and your neck neutral. Once your form is correct, add a set of light dumbbells, keeping the tension in your lower back, shoulder blades and glutes. You should feel your butt and hamstrings start to fire.
#2 Dumbbell Turkish Get-Ups.
This exercise doesn’t discriminate: It works all of your muscle groups, enhances hip, shoulder and core stability, gets your heart rate up and more. It trains the body as interconnected systems rather than isolating individual parts. The move requires you to start on your back with an arm (that eventually holds a weight) toward the ceiling, stand up and lower yourself back down. Keep your eyes on the weight, your lat and core engaged and your knee aligned over the mid-foot.
#3 Dumbbell Squat To Overhead Press.
This exercise also works the whole body, from the quads and glutes to the shoulders and upper back. Begin with a set of dumbbells at your shoulders and your feet hips-width apart. Squat and – while keeping your chest tall – push into your heels to resume a standing position while also pressing the dumbbells overhead. You’ll feel your heart rate skyrocket while experiencing a full-body fatigue in both your legs and shoulders.
#4 Dumbbell Bench Press.
Lying on a bench with your feet on the floor, hold a pair of dumbbells with your elbows bent just below the bench. Brace your core, squeeze your glutes and powerfully press the dumbbells toward the ceiling, stopping when the elbows are fully extended. Lower the dumbbells and repeat so that you feel the burn mostly in your chest and a bit in your triceps.
#5 Dumbbell Single Arm Bent Over Row.
If you work your chest and triceps, as with the bench press, balance out your muscles by also exercising your upper back and biceps with this exercise. Flatten your back and bend over – with one hand and knee on a bench if you have one – and pull a dumbbell up with the opposite hand. Keep your core tight and the dumbbell close to your body so that your elbow brushes your rib cage and your torso stays stable.
#6 Dumbbell Goblet Squat.
This move involves squatting vertically – that is, without hinging your hips like you would a back-weighted squat – while holding a dumbbell against your chest. Sit between your heels with an upright torso until you can no longer maintain your posture. The movement should set your quads and abs on fire – and feel like you’re trying to balance a cup of water on your head.