Strength training with dumbbells – 101

As stewards of all of the Lord’s gifts, we need to take care of our physical bodies. A good diet, exercise, and rest are essential. But all things in their proper proportion. Our relationship with the Lord takes precedence over everything else. Many people these days, even some believers, make exercise their religion.

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Back in early-July, I submitted some posts at the conclusion of my 16-week, 30-pound weight-loss campaign. Three months later, I’m happy to report that I haven’t gained back any of the weight. One of the keys to keeping at bay the almost-inevitable yo-yo effect was by continuing my exercise regimen. Exercise revs up your metabolism and burns those calories. Losing weight obviously requires eating right and cutting back on calories, but if your program doesn’t include an exercise regimen you will only have one oar in the water.

People spend a ton of money on gym memberships, but you can put together an effective exercise regimen with only a small investment.

Aerobic exercise is the best calorie burner. Examples include cycling, swimming, rowing, sessions on a step or elliptical machine, and brisk walking. I don’t recommend running or jogging because they’re VERY hard on the joints. I try to walk every day with a goal of 10,000 steps or 4-5 miles. See my previous post about my walking regimen here.

I haven’t mentioned the anaerobic portion of my exercise regimen to this point, so here goes…

Anaerobic (resistance) training can also be a good part of a weight loss and maintenance program. Lifting weights keeps your muscles toned and burning calories. After a month or two, you’ll notice increased strength and endurance for all kinds of tasks around the house and at the job. Again, you don’t need an expensive gym membership to have a decent weight lifting program. I used to have an extensive amount of free weights and equipment in the basement of our previous house, and from that experience I was able to cull together a condensed program using only 5, 10, 15, and 20 lb. dumbbells and one resistance band. I do my anaerobic workouts on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and each session lasts only about 15 minutes. That’s right! Only 15 minutes per session! I don’t use heavy weights and I make sure I keep proper form. Don’t rush through each rep. Do them methodically. Feel the burn. Rest and stretch between sets. Start out with light weights and increase resistance very gradually as your strength increases. Lift smart with the long-term in mind and avoid short-term injury or burnout. Your goal is to effectively fatigue the muscle group you’re working on, NOT to swing around heavier and heavier weights to satisfy an ego trip. Caution: It’s easy to injure your joints and/or muscles by using weights that are too heavy. 

Below is my current weekly routine. I’ve provided videos for each exercise, but if you’ve never lifted weights before, you’ll want to at least read a good book on the topic from the library or Amazon. The weight that you lift doesn’t need to match mine. Everyone is different. Start out with very light weights. Lifting weights that are too heavy and lifting weights improperly can and will cause injury.

Monday – Back and Biceps.

  • Standing alternating dumbbell curls. I start with 10 lb. dumbbells in each hand, alternating curls x 10 reps. See video here.
  • Alternating dumbbell rows. 10 lb. x 10 reps. See video here.
  • Standing alternating dumbbell curls. 15 lb. x 10 reps.
  • Alternating dumbbell rows. 15 lb. x 10 reps.
  • I then wrap my 8′ resistance band up high around one of our basement poles, sit in a chair about 8′ feet away, and pull the band handles towards me, using my back muscles, x 10 reps.
  • I then wrap my resistance band low around the same basement pole, sit in a chair about 6′ feet away with a pad on my lap (i.e., our dog’s padded bed 🙂 ) to rest my elbows on and do arm curls until muscle failure (usually about 20 reps).
  • Crunches x 25 (see video here) followed by lying leg raises x 25 (see video here)

Wednesday – Chest and Triceps

We have a long wooden bench at home that’s very helpful in doing dumbbell chest flies and dumbbell benchpresses. Necessity is the mother of invention.

  • Laying flat on bench, do dumbbell chest flies. 5 lb. x 10 reps (see video here) and immediately transition to…
  • Dumbbell benchpress. 5 lb. x 10 reps. See video here.
  • Dumbbell one-arm triceps kickback. 5 lb. x 10 reps. See video here.
  • Dumbbell chest fly and benchpress. 10 lb. x 10 reps.
  • Dumbbell one-arm triceps kickback. 10 lb. x 10 reps.
  • Dumbbell chest fly and benchpress. 15 lb. x 10 reps.
  • I then wrap my resistance band low around the basement pole, lay down with my back flat on the floor with my head 6′ from the pole and do triceps pushdowns until muscle failure (usually about 20 reps). I can also do pushdowns kneeling on the floor with the band wrapped around the basement ceiling beam. See video here.
  • I then wrap my resistance band high around the same basement pole, stand about 6′ away, with my back to the pole and do standing chest flies until muscle failure (usually about 20 reps). See video here.
  • Crunches x 25 followed by lying leg raises x 25.
  • I usually end the routine with some modified push-ups (with knees on the floor) x 20 as the grand finale.

Friday – Legs and Shoulders

  • Squats holding onto 5 lb. dumbbells x 10 reps. See video here.
  • Dumbbell stiff-legged deadlift. 5 lb. x 10 reps. See video here.
  • Calf raises on first step of basement stairway x 10 reps. See video here.
  • Combo dumbbell lateral raise (video), dumbbell front raise (video), and dumbbell shoulder press (video). 5 lb. x 10 reps each.
  • Squats holding onto 10 lb. dumbbells x 10 reps.
  • Dumbbell stiff-legged deadlift. 10 lb. x 10 reps.
  • Calf raises on first step of basement stairway x 10 reps.
  • Combo dumbbell lateral raise, dumbbell front raise, and dumbbell shoulder press. 10 lb. x 10 reps each.
  • Crunches x 25 followed by lying leg raises x 25.

There you have it, folks, a very thorough resistance training regimen that hits all of the major muscle groups, takes only 45-minutes total each week, and requires only a set of adjustable dumbbells (see here for a $40 dumbbell starter set from Amazon) and a resistance band.

14 thoughts on “Strength training with dumbbells – 101

  1. Wow, 🏋️‍♂️ 🤸‍♀️ I’m impressed! Can’t keep up with you brother but I’m trying! I’ve lost 8 lbs over the past year….slow and steady wins the race, for me anyway!
    Press on Tom, God bless you!
    P.S. you forgot to mention raking exercise 🍁🍃🍁🍃

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Lisa Beth, and congrats on the weight loss. Keep it up! Yup, slow and steady wins the race for most people. In the VAST majority of diets, people dramatically lose weight and then dramatically put it all back on.

      Yes, the start of the November raking marathon is only three weeks away! That will drain the calories in a big way. Thank you and God bless you, too!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, sister! This comes from many years of weight training and…ach!…doing many of the very things I warn against. I hope my experience can help someone just starting out. This is a very sustainable program that, Lord willing, I can continue for many years. Great dividends on only a small investment!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I have a few problem areas myself – one shoulder and one hip – so I make sure to warm up. This regimen with lighter weights is so easy on the joints that I should be able to do it for years to come. I’m still getting good benefits but with little risk of injury.

      Liked by 1 person

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