Guide to Free Weights

Alex explains the different ways to use free weights to reach your goals. He covers toning, muscle building, and tips on how to be successful throughout your workout.

What You Need to Know

Working out with free weights has many benefits compared to using machines; however, it carries a much higher risk of injury. I recommend free weight workouts for intermediate to advanced individuals with a basic understanding of fitness. Exercising with free weights can help speed up your metabolism, will work multiple muscles at once, and will burn more calories than standard weight machines. They also promote balance and stabilizing muscles because there is no limit to range of motion, unlike a machine, which works in a single direction. Free weights are very versatile: it’s very easy to isolate muscle groups and do multi-joint exercises.
Free weight workouts can be utilized for both losing weight by toning muscle or for bulking up and gaining size. How you work out with free weights determines how your muscles will react to resistance training. There are two different strategies I would recommend: one for people who want to increase muscle size and another for people who want to slim down or tone muscle.

Toning
If you are trying to lose weight, tone muscles, or increase your stamina, then you should do many repetitions in your exercise sets. Choose a weight at which you can do 25-30 repetitions without stopping and then over time increase the number of sets that you do.

Building Muscle
If your goal is to bulk up, gain muscle mass, or increase your raw power, then you should lift heavy weights. Choose a weight at which you cannot do more than 6-10 repetitions. Over time, increase the number of repetitions to 12-15 and start increasing the number of sets.

Have a Plan
In either case, I would recommend doing resistance training 2-5 days a week and build up to 1-3 hours each day. Personally, I choose two or three muscle groups to focus on each time I work out and alternate muscle groups with each exercise. You should never work out the same muscle group every day because the body needs time for the muscle fibers to repair and strengthen (with the exception of the abdominal muscles). In order minimize the risk of injury, always make sure to research the proper positions and movements each exercise requires before you begin.

Things to look into if you’re interested in free weight resistance training:
1) Supersets
2) Diet logging (We reviewed the Lose It! App)
3) Powerlifting

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