Strength training increases your muscular strength and endurance and also builds stronger bones and connective tissue. As you age, the benefits of strength training may help you live a more independent life. Using dumbbells for strength training creates some extra risk in the weight room, but it also provides increased benefit because your muscles must work to stabilize the weights, instead of pushing a weight in a fixed track as you would with a weight machine.
Basic Strength-Training Technique
The fundamentals of good technique with dumbbells are much the same as with barbells or weight machines. Exhale as the weight goes up and inhale as it comes down. Aim for smooth, rhythmic lifts with a count of at least two on the way up and three to four on the way down. If you find yourself having to hoist the weight to move it, you're too fatigued to maintain proper form and should either stop or reduce weight.
Advantages of Using Dumbbells
One of the biggest benefits of using dumbbells is that each arm must literally pull -- or push -- its own weight, so any muscular imbalances will become readily apparent and can be addressed. Keep an eye out for whether you can move both dumbbells through the same range of motion at the same time, or if one arm lags slightly behind the other or doesn't want to move quite as far. Dumbbells are also relatively inexpensive and take up less space than other home weight-training products.
Dumbbell Exercise Risks
Dumbbells force your muscles to stabilize the weight, instead of pushing weight along a fixed path as you'd do with a weight machine. This adds extra benefit but also introduces the risk of losing control of the dumbbells or moving through an incorrect range of motion that may cause you to injure yourself. You could even drop the dumbbells on yourself or on somebody else if you lose control of them. If you're not sure how to start, book a session with a personal trainer to make sure you've got proper technique.
Sets, Repetitions and Spotting
For general strength and conditioning, aim for a single set of 12 repetitions. Expect to lift slightly less with dumbbells than you would with a weight machine, simply because your muscles are responsible for stabilizing the weights as well. A good spotter can help you maintain an even range of motion with both arms. When you're spotting someone with dumbbells, grasp their wrists to stabilize the weights instead of their elbows, because if you grab the elbow your lifter can still drop the dumbbell on you or herself.
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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.