Most fitness experts will tell you that strength training with weights is one of the most effective ways to build muscle density and achieve a lean, toned appearance. Among the many strength training options, there are to choose from, dumbbells stand out as an uber-popular choice due to their convenience, ease of use and versatility. If you're new to the world of dumbbell training, how do you determine which size dumbbells you should use? Below are some handy tips to help you choose the right size dumbbells for your workout.
What the Experts Say
According to the American Council on Exercise, beginners to strength training should choose a dumbbell with a weight that allows them to complete 12 to 15 repetitions of an exercise for one or two sets. For most people, this weight would range between 2 to 15 pounds, but keep in mind that this will largely be determined by the muscle group you're working. For example, it's generally easier for most people to perform bicep curls with a 10-pound dumbbell versus trying to do tricep kickbacks with that same amount of weight. Ultimately, the goal is to start with a weight that allows you to perform strength training exercises with proper technique, form, and rhythm. Once you get comfortable using the weight that you start off with, you can gradually increase the size (and weight) of your dumbbells to provide additional resistance.
Choosing Dumbbell Weight: When to Up the Ante
Let's say you've been working out with 8-pound dumbbells for quite a while now, and you've gotten to the place where you can perform 15 to 20 reps of bicep curls with relative ease, even though it didn't start out that way. This is a good sign – it means that your muscles have successfully adapted to your current resistance level, to the point where they're basically not being challenged anymore. Once you hit this point, there's only one thing left to do: It's time to up the ante and
Take Small, Incremental Steps
Although it's exciting to take your weights up a notch, be careful not to go too high too fast. You should never increase your dumbbell weight to the point where you're struggling to execute the exercise with proper form and technique. Not only will this make the exercise much less effective, but it's an easy way to injure yourself as well. While there's nothing wrong with pushing yourself, never sacrifice good form for the sake of trying to make progress. Take small, incremental steps towards increasing your dumbbell size, always being mindful to do it in proportion to your ability to properly execute each exercise.
The Bottom Line
Picking the right size dumbbell is all about finding the "sweet spot" – i.e., the level of resistance that can fatigue your muscles after about 15 to 20 repetitions. Be willing to start small and feel your way through it, as you can always make adjustments along the way. Happy training!