Trendy workouts come and go, but pumping iron remains the most reliable way to achieve overall fitness. It’s little wonder since weight lifting boasts so many benefits, including increasing muscle strength, boosting bone density and cardiovascular health, improving cognition and mood, reducing the risk of sarcopenia (age-related muscle loss), fostering functional fitness, and, of course, supporting weight loss. Overall, weight lifting enhances your quality of life and promotes longevity.
The following workouts are designed for beginners. If they seem too easy or if you’re used to exercising, feel free to add more reps and more weight. No dumbbells? No problem! You can also use a kettlebell or even household items like full water bottles, gallon jugs, or large soup cans.
Start Where You Are
Nothing undermines a weight lifting program faster than trying to lift too heavy too soon. Instead, base the length of time and dumbbell weights on your current strength and stamina. If you’re just starting out, work the whole body weekly by dividing it into sections for three days a week with a day in between for some cardiovascular exercise like walking or biking.
Day #1: Squats with Biceps Curls. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with palms facing forward and your feet shoulder-width apart with knees slightly bent. Keeping your knees and feet facing forward, bend your knees and squat, slowly lowering hips toward floor. Pause, then slowly return to the starting position. Now perform a biceps curl by bending your elbows and bringing the dumbbells up toward your shoulders. Slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position. Complete three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions.
Day #2: Dumbbell Rows with Triceps Extensions. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms at your sides and your feet shoulder-width apart. Keeping your abdominals tight, bend slightly forward at the waist. Raise the dumbbells up to the middle of each side of your torso, bending your elbows toward the ceiling and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Hold for two seconds, then straighten your arms. Extend the dumbbells behind you until you feel tension in your triceps. Hold for two seconds, then return to the starting position. Complete three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions.
Day #3: Wall Push-Ups and Calf Raises. Stand arm’s length away from a wall, facing the wall. Lean forward, placing hands on the wall at chest height. Keeping your legs and torso straight, bend your elbows and lower your upper body toward the wall. Hold, then straighten your arms (don’t lock your elbows!) and return to starting position. Follow this with a calf raise. Raise your body by standing on the balls of your feet. Pause, and then lower your heels back to the floor. Complete three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions.
Bonus: Kettlebell Swing.
Stand with your legs slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and a kettlebell on the floor between your feet, slightly behind your heels. Grasp the kettlebell with both hands and swing it up to chest level. Using a continual smooth motion, swing the kettlebell down between your legs as you move into a squat. Continue for 10 to 15 repetitions. Complete three sets.
- Do a 10-minute warm-up before you start (jogging in place, jumping rope, etc.) and then stretch after your workout.
- Stay hydrated.
- If necessary, take 15- to 30-second breaks between sets.
- Stop if anything feels painful.