I have a basic home gym machine without any dumbbells or barbells. If I decide to add some free weights to my exercise room, what specific weight or size of dumbbells should I buy? Is it better to do a whole body workout a few times a week or separate each individual muscle group and pick one to train for each workout?
It’s always a great idea to include some free weights like a set of dumbbells to your gym in order to access and use a multitude of different muscle building exercises. You really only need a few different sizes of dumbbells in order to get a great workout. I recommend buying 3 different dumbbell weights which include a pair of 5 pound, 15 pound and 35 pound dumbbells (females) or a pair of 25 pound, 40 pound and 60 pound dumbbells (males). Depending on your current strength levels, you can always go into the store and gauge how the different weights feel to you. You want a light enough weight to warm-up with and then 2 sets of dumbbells that challenge you for higher and lower repetition ranges (15-20 reps and 6-8 reps) which will allow you to train for endurance and for overall muscle size and strength. If you have a higher budget (around $300) then I recommend an all-in-one adjustable dumbbell set called SelectTech by BowFlex. These take up very little space in your home gym, allow for a bunch of different weight ranges (5 pounds up to around 50 pounds) and work very well. This dumbbell set has an adjustable feature where you choose the weight you want to use, turn a dial and then just lift up the desired plates that are attached to the dumbbells. The rest of the weights sit in a nice little holder that stays in place.
Instead of dumbbells, you might also consider getting some kettebells which have become extremely popular over the last few years. These are cannonball looking weights with handles on them and they are excellent for doing a bunch of different muscle building exercises with. You can review many of our kettlebell exercise guides right here on ShapeFit to see if it’s something you would be interested in adding to your routine. Kettlebells range in price and can get expensive but you only really need a few different weights to get a killer workout (10 pounds and 35 pounds). I recommend going down to your local sporting goods store and testing out the regular style dumbbells, the Bowflex adjustable dumbbells and the kettlebells to see which one you like the best. Don’t be afraid to perform a few different exercises with them right in the store. You might look a little weird but don’t worry since you want to make sure it’s something you will use since you will most likely be spending a few hundred dollars on them.
For your workout routine, it really depends on how much time you have during the week to train. If you only have a few days out of the week to exercise then you might want to consider a whole body workout which targets your large muscle groups (legs, back, chest, shoulders). Each weight training workout should be around 60 minutes total which is more than enough time to get in a great workout. If you’re able to fit in 2 workouts per week, then do a whole body workout on Monday and Thursday. This will allow enough time for your body to fully recover between workouts. Here are some exercises to include in your weekly whole body workout:
Whole Body Workout Routine (3 sets per muscle group)
- Chest: machine bench press, flat bench dumbbell press, dumbbell flyes and pushups.
- Back: Lat pulldowns (machine), bent over dumbbell rows, pull-ups.
- Legs: Machine squats, dumbbell squats, dumbbell lunges.
- Shoulders: Machine shoulder press, dumbbell shoulder press, dumbbell side lateral raises.
If you have 3-5 days per week to workout, then I highly recommend separating your routine into different muscle groups. Doing a split workout routine is great because it allows you to train different body parts on different days. You can really focus on one or two specific areas of your body and overload those muscle groups. Here is a great 4 day split to use during the week:
- Monday: Chest and Biceps
- Tuesday: Legs
- Wednesday: Off
- Thursday: Shoulders and Abs
- Friday: Back and Triceps
- Saturday: Off
- Sunday: Off
If your goal is to tone up and lose body fat, remember to include at least 30-45 minutes of cardiovascular training several times during the week in order to burn extra calories and fat. The best time to do cardio is first thing in the morning on an empty stomach (with BCAA drink) to really tap into your fat stores and maximize fat burning. If you don’t have time to do it in the morning then try to do it after your weight training workouts or later at night a few hours before you go to bed. If doing cardio at night, try to limit your carbs after you’re finished and focus on eating lean protein and veggies to allow your body to burn up fat overnight while you sleep. A great workout routine to follow is 30 minutes of weight training followed up with 30 minutes of cardio, 3-5 days per week. This allows you to get a muscle building and fat burning workout completed in 1 hour.