Free Weight Exercises

Coach Jan, MS, BS, NASM, ACE

Jan Green is a personal trainer and health coach certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine and the American Council on Exercise. She also has a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and a master’s degree in health promotion. Jan is passionate about helping others thrive. She’s dedicated to teaching that health, joy, and quality of life are inextricably connected. A true science geek who is unabashedly authentic, she’s a spunky mix of fact and fun.
Free weight exercises

Women need to work their muscles with strength training to not only strengthen their bones and joints, but also to alleviate pain, build muscle, and lose weight

But the gym can be so intimidating!! 

So, where do you start? How do you determine what is best for you —  free weights vs machines?

Free weight workout routinesBenefits of Machines

Weight machines definitely have their advantages. Here are some:

  • Machines are great for isolating movements and muscle groups. Machines often place you in a fixed position allowing for very specific muscle actions.
  • Machines typically support better form. Because you’re in a fixed position, it’s more difficult to “cheat” and have your form suffer as your muscles fatigue.
  • The exercise is usually very straight-forward. If you don’t know what you’re doing, chances are pretty good that there are instructions right there on the machine.

But, is the gym your only option? Nope!

You can easily do free weight exercises at home! Below are some very simple dumbbell exercises for beginners — and you don’t even need to go out and buy dumbbells!

Benefits of Free Weights

You may be wondering if you can even get a good workout without those machines. Absolutely! Here are just a few of the reasons why free weight workout routines are an awesome addition to your workout regime:

  • Free weight exercises require the use of more stabilizing muscles. The more muscular engagement you have, the more calories you burn. Score!
  • Free weight exercises tend to be more functional. How often in your day-to-day life do you lie on your belly and do a hamstring curl? My guess is never. But, I’m pretty sure you do plenty of squats throughout the day.
  • Free weights are super versatile. For example, you can do a bicep curl (either with your palms facing forward, facing each other, or facing backward), utilizing and recruiting muscles in different ways.

So this argument about free weights vs. machines? Each has its place. 

What Exactly Are Free Weights?

Basically, a free weight is any weighted object used for strength training that isn’t affixed to an apparatus or machine. No pulleys or ropes or resistance bands, just you fighting against gravity.

Some common free weight devices:

  • Dumbbells
  • Kettlebells
  • Barbells and plates
  • Sandbags
  • Medicine Balls

In a pinch, gallon jugs, textbooks, a chair, bags of dog food, cans of soup, your toddler… pretty much any object that you can safely heft can be used as a free weight.

Here are a few effective dumbbell exercises for beginners, but any of the following free weight exercises can be performed with a gallon or half-gallon jugs. A full gallon of water is about 8 pounds. If you find that this weight is too heavy for any exercise, simply pour out some water. Easy peezy.

Free Weight Exercises

The following free weight exercises are perfect for busy women trying to make the best use of their time. These compound movements create a full-body workout. Complete all of these exercises and repeat for three sets. 

Exercise 1: Squat to Overhead Press
The simple squat effectively works the whole lower body. We add some upper-body power with the addition of an overhead press, working the shoulders.The

– As you squat, your arms will be bent with your weights about shoulder-level.
– As your legs straighten, your arms will straighten up over your head. This is one rep.
-Complete 10-12 reps.

* Make sure to engage your core muscles and maintain good posture throughout. Many people have a bad tendency to flare through the ribs and stick out their booty.

Squat to overhead pressExercise 2: Lunge with Bicep Curl
Continuing to work the lower body with a classic lunge, we add in a bicep curl to sculpt and strengthen your beautiful arms

The Movement

– Bicep curl both arms while stepping back into a lunge with your right leg.
– Return to your starting position.
– Repeat to the left. Completing both sides equals one rep.
– Repeat the pattern for 8-10 reps.

* This exercise challenges your stability by having you shift your weight from one side to another as you lunge. Squeeze your butt and engage your core to maintain balance.Lunge with bicep curlExercise 3: Side Lunge with Front Raise

Working in a lateral plane of motion gives your glutes and hips some special lovin’. Plus, add in some front raise action to shape up those shoulders.

The Movement
– Keep your left leg straight as you lunge out to right. As you lunge, lift your arms forward.
– Return to the starting position and repeat to the left. Completing both sides equals one rep.
– Repeat this pattern for 8-10 reps.

* Using a lighter weight allows for better posture and helps keep the shoulders from lifting and the neck from becoming too tense.

Side lunge with front raiseExercise 4: Deadlift to Bent-over Rows

Work your entire backside, from your back to your booty, with this deadlift to row combo.

The Movement
– Hinge at your hips keeping a lengthened spine, letting your weights fall forward.
– From this position, pull your elbows in towards your hips.
– Lengthen your arms and hinge at the hips to return to the starting position. This completes one rep.
– Repeat for 10-12 reps.

* Hinge your body like a Barbie doll. Your spine shouldn’t move throughout this exercise.

Deadlift/Bentover rowsExercise 5: Chest Press to Weighted Crunch

No bench needed for this chest press. We’ll take this exercise all the way down to the mat to get in some ab work too.

The Movement
– Lie on your back with your legs extending up in the air. Arms are bent with your weight right above your chest.
– Press the weight up.
– From there, crunch your body up, reaching your weight toward your toes.
– After briefly holding the crunch, lower back to the floor and bring the weight back to your chest. This completes one rep.
– Repeat for 12-15 reps.

* Keeping your chin slightly tucked with your gaze in between your knees helps you avoid straining too much through your neck as you lift into your crunch.

Chest press/weighted crunch

Ready For More?

If you liked these free weight exercises, you’ll love the LadyBoss® Pocket Personal Trainer! It contains tutorials and video examples of hundreds of exercises just like these. Try it for free HERE!


Glute strengthening exercises

Glute Exercises

Top 10 Glute Strengthening Exercises It seems like these days everyone wants to be a part of the big booty crew – and why not?!

Read More »


Related Posts