Hitting the weight room can be intimidating, especially when everyone there already seems to know what they’re doing. The good news is you don’t have to have a master’s degree in exercise science to master the free weights.
These 10 moves are a full-body introduction to strength training, and all you need is a couple sets of dumbbells. Do them at the gym or do them at home as you build strength-training confidence (and svelte muscles).
1. Dumbbell step-ups
Hold a dumbbell in each hand and stand behind a raised platform, step or sturdy bench. Simply step up onto the platform with one foot, following with the other foot, then return to the ground, leading with the same foot you initiated the step-up with. Perform 20 steps leading with your right foot and 20 leading with your left.
Perform two sets of 20 repetitions per side.
2. Dumbbell squat press
Hold a dumbbell in each hand and bend your elbows, so the dumbbells are held at shoulder height, your palms facing one another. With your feet slightly wider than hip-distance apart, press your hips back and bend your knees, lowering your hips as if you were going to sit down in a chair. When your knees form a 90-degree angle, press through your heels and rise to standing. As you stand, press the dumbbells up over your head as you extend your elbows. Return to start.
Perform two sets of 10 to 12 repetitions.
3. Dumbbell lunge curl
Stand with your feet staggered, one leg in front of the other, your weight in the heel of your front foot with a dumbbell in each hand. Bend your elbows and curl the dumbbells up to your shoulders, keeping your upper arms tucked into your sides. As you extend your elbows to return your arms to your sides, bend both knees and sink down into a lunge, keeping your weight in your front heel and your torso upright and tall. Return to start.
Perform two sets of 12 to 15 repetitions on each leg.
4. Weighted bridge
Lie on your back, your knees bent, feet flat on the ground with a dumbbell held securely across your pelvis. Tighten your glutes and core and press through your heels as you lift your hips off the ground until your body forms a straight line from knees to shoulders. Reverse the movement and return to start, stopping just before your hips touch the ground. Continue.
Perform two sets of 20 to 25 repetitions.
5. Weighted calf raise
Stand tall, feet hip-distance apart and knees slightly bent with your weight in the balls of your feet and a dumbbell in each hand. Squeeze your calves and rise up on your toes as high as you can. Pause at the top of the movement for a second, then lower back to start.
Perform two sets of 25 repetitions.
6. Dumbbell chest press
Lie with your back on the ground, your knees bent, feet flat on the floor and a dumbbell in each hand. Start with your elbows bent and palms facing away from you with your upper arms extended outward from your shoulders. From this position, press your arms straight up over your chest, extending your elbows. Return to start.
Perform two sets of 12 to 15 repetitions.
7. Single arm dumbbell row
Start on your hands and knees in a tabletop position, your knees under your hips and your hands under your shoulders. Grasp a dumbbell in your right hand (your arm reaching toward the ground) and extend your right leg behind you for balance as you shift your weight slightly to your left side. From this position, engage your back and squeeze your right shoulder blade in toward your spine as you bend your elbow and pull the dumbbell up toward your chest. Lower the dumbbell back to start, without quite touching the ground.
Perform two sets of 12 to 15 repetitions per side.
8. Lateral front raise
This move will hit your shoulders from two angles at once — you can perform it kneeling (as shown) or standing. Simply hold a dumbbell in each hand, one hand positioned laterally outside your thigh with the other hand positioned just in front of your thigh — both palms facing in. In a single unit, extend each arm — one laterally out to the side and the other straight in front of your body — raising the dumbbells to shoulder height. Return to start.
Perform two sets of 10 to 12 repetitions per side.
9. Triceps kickback
Position yourself in a tabletop on the floor, just like you did with the dumbbell row. Again, extend your right leg behind you as you grip a dumbbell in your right hand and shift your weight to the left. Draw your right elbow up and in to your side, just as if you were doing a row, but this time “affixing” your upper arm to your side. This is the starting position. From here, tighten your triceps (the muscles along the back of your arm) and extend your elbow, pressing the dumbbell back and up so that it’s aligned with your hip (if not extended above). Bend your elbow to return to start.
Perform two sets of 10 to 12 repetitions per side.
10. Wall squat with wood chop
Fire up your legs and your core with this wall squat wood chop. Hold a single dumbbell in both hands and lean against a wall with your feet hip-distance apart and your weight in your heels. Bend your knees and sink down against the wall into a squat, stopping when your knees form a 90-degree angle. Holding the dumbbell in both hands, twist your torso slightly to the right as you reach the dumbbell across your body to the outside of your right hip. Holding your core tight, engage your abdominals and shoulders as you sweep your arms up and across your body to the outside of your left shoulder, twisting your torso to the left as you go, all while keeping your hips straight. Carefully return to start, reversing the movement.
Perform two sets of 12 wood chops to each side.