By Mike Westerdal
Dumbbells are probably the most versatile exercise equipment ever invented. They are perfect for anyone and are ideal for working out at home. Even with light weights, dumbbell workouts can tone your muscles and when combined with cardio, dumbbells can really boost your body's fat-burning capacity.
You'll need to get a set of dumbbells to get started. Stick with lighter weights so you don't run the risk of injuring yourself. We'll start off by going over some dumbbell conditioning exercises that can be done indoors year-round. Make sure you've got enough clear space around you (and above you too) to be able to safely perform the maneuvers without hitting anything.
- Single dumbbell squat: Grasp a dumbbell with both hands, holding it about 8 inches in front of your chest. With your feet about shoulder-width apart, keep your back straight and slowly bend at the knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor-hold for one or two seconds and then return to the starting position. Do 10-12 reps, rest for a moment then repeat;
- Side shoulder raise: Stand and hold the dumbbells at your sides with your palms facing inwards. With your elbows slightly bent, raise your arms out and up, bringing the dumbbells up to about ear height. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat. You can also do front raises-with your palms facing towards you, keep your arm more or less straight and bring the dumbbell up and out in front of you up to about ear height;
- Overhead press: Grasp the dumbbells with your palms facing forward. Bring the dumbbells up to about ear height (your upper arms parallel to the floor). Raise the dumbbells up over your head until they just about touch-pause and return to the starting position and then repeat;
- Bicep curls: Hold the dumbbells at your side palms facing forward and then keeping your elbows near your side, curl your arm up until the dumbbell just about touches your shoulder. Hold for 1-2 seconds, return to the starting position. You can do one arm at a time or both together-whichever you prefer.
Once you've got these basic movements down, you can start performing these exercises while walking in place. Start easy but try and get to where you can lift your legs high enough so that your thigh is nearly parallel to the floor. You want to get your heart rate up so that you'll achieve maximum benefit. Rotate through the exercises. You can even add your own.
Now we'll discuss a few ways that you can outside or incorporate dumbbells into outdoor activities such as walking:
- Jumping jacks with overhead dumbbell press: Begin by standing with your feet about 6-8 inches apart, grasping a dumbbell in each hand and bend your elbows upright (upper arms parallel to the floor) holding the dumbbells about ear height. Jump up spreading your feet out (like you were doing a jumping jack) and as you do so, lift the dumbbells over your head. Jump back to the starting position and as you do, return the dumbbells to the starting position. Repeat 20-30 times;
- Walking with dumbbells: Walking is an excellent, low-impact way to get or stay fit-it can be made even better with the addition of a lightweight set of dumbbells. Jumpstart your metabolism by doing bicep curls, overhead presses, or front raises while you're walking;
- Walking dumbbell lunges: Find an area where you can walk about 20 feet and then holding a dumbbell in each hand (arms at your side) place one foot forward as far as you comfortably can, then lower your body until the knee of your rear leg almost touches the ground and your front thigh is almost parallel to the floor. Then, keeping your torso upright, lunge forward with the other leg, repeating the process, alternating lunges 10 times;
What I've presented here are just a very few of the many ways to incorporate dumbbells into a conditioning workout. Be creative and come up with some of your own. Be sure to take things slowly at first and gradually build up your capacity and make sure you've got the form down right. Starting off too aggressively right out of the gate may result in injury and can really make it difficult to stick with your program. Try and build up to where you can do at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise 3-5 times a week.
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Mike Westerdal is the author of the first and original...
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