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Make good use of your free weights with these total-body workouts

Free-weight exercises have been proven to torch calories and build muscle, and they can be done at home or at the gym. There are a ton of dumbbell workouts that can tone your whole body in a short amount of time. If you can dedicate 30 to 45 minutes a day, you can get your whole body toned using the free weights you have laying around the house or buy some online that won’t cost you an arm or a leg.

If you’re not making dumbbell exercises part of your weekly exercise plan, you could be missing out. Dumbbells are critical to total-body strength training. Most dumbbells fall within the range of 5 to 25 pounds, but if you belong to a gym, you can work your way up to 60-pound dumbbells or more.

Moves for a total body workout

Bench press

This exercise will work your triceps, shoulder muscles, and pecs at the same time. Lie back on a bench or even a chair if you don’t have a bench. Make sure you are balanced with your feet on the floor. Palms facing upward, extend your elbows as you press the weights above your chest until they are straight above your chest. Bring the weights back down just past shoulder level for one rep.

Shoulder press with calf raise

While the shoulder press focuses primarily on two parts of the deltoids, it also works your trapezius, triceps, rotator cuffs, and calves, giving you the definition you’re looking for. Standing upright, hold a pair of dumbbells even with your shoulders, arms slightly bent, and your palms facing toward your body. Press upward and twist your wrists as you go so your palms face forward by the time you reach the top, lifting them over your shoulders until your arms are straight. At the top, lift onto your tip-toes and squeeze. That’s one rep.

man doing lunge
Anna Shvets/Pexels


This move works your large muscle groups like your quads, glutes, and calves. You can do this move either lunging forward or backward, keeping the dumbbells by your side or incorporating the move with a shoulder press (above). Step out from a standing position, hold the move, and step back. That’s one rep.


Stand with feet hip-width apart and hold the dumbbells in front of your thighs. Tip from the hips and lower the weights toward the floor, skimming your thighs. Keep your back flat and shoulders back. This move works the glutes, back, hamstrings, and core.

Squat with bicep curl

Hold weights in each hand and stand with your feet hip-distance apart. Bend your knees and lower into a squat, knees behind the toes, squatting as low as you can and squeezing your butt. As you stand, curl the dumbbells toward your biceps. That’s one rep.

Pushup plank and row

The pushup plank and row targets the chest, shoulders, triceps, back, ​and core. Holding a dumbbell in both hands in a pushup position, do a regular pushup. Once you finish in a plank position, pull the right weight up into a single-arm row. Repeat on the other side. That’s one rep.

woman using dumbbells
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels

Why dumbbells?

Dumbbells typically offer a better range of motion than barbells, so you can build more strength and see results quicker. It’s always best to start low and work your way up if you want to avoid injury or excessive soreness. Trust us. Plus, they are relatively inexpensive and can be transported from one place to another with ease.

If you need more options or want fresh ideas, you can always go onto YouTube and search for free-weight workouts, or you can buy this guide and hang it wherever you workout. With all these exercises, make sure you squeeze at the top of the movement and aim for eight to 10 reps to start, working your way up to 12 to 15. Repeat the routine above two to three times, and before you know it, you’ll see the results you’ve been looking for.

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