Free weights – no, not a bunch of barbells going spare, but the correct term for any weight you have complete control over the movement, pace, and purpose of whilst using it.

They’re basically anything you use to do a weighted exercise with that isn’t a machine or a cable – dumbbells, adjustable dumbbells, kettlebells, medicine balls, barbells or sandbells.

With us? Even if you already knew what free weights are and have access to some, chances are you’re unsure how to use them. Almost 2,000 of you search for free weight exercises every month, and there’s plenty to more to wrap your head around. How many reps or sets are best? How heavy should the weight be? What are the best weight lifting exercises? What exactly is a tricep kickback and how can it fit into a broader workout?

But fret not future free weight aficionados, WH has spoken to the experts, compiled the best free weight exercises and answered all your FAQs about weight lifting for women. Take note.

9 benefits of working out with free weights

  1. Builds lean muscle
  2. Boosts bone density
  3. Improves hormone health
  4. Adaptable (can be used for strength-focused resistance training, cardio workouts and circuit training)
  5. Lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  6. Stabilises blood sugars (3 o’clock slump, anyone?)
  7. Easy to scale up or down (heavier or lighter, fewer reps or more)
  8. Improves your metabolic rate
  9. Helps address muscular imbalances throughout your whole body

What’s the difference between free weights and machine weights?

  • Free weights aren’t subject to single fixed movements
  • Machine weights can be fixed to a single movement e.g. a leg press
  • A free weight (e.g. a dumbbell) can be used in a number of movements and planes of motion

In spite of these fundamental differences between free weights and weight machines, the choice to use either or both really comes down to what’s available to you.

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