Monday, November 19, 2018

Benefits of Bodyweight Exercises (Better Than Machines!)

If you knew that there was something completely free, totally accessible no matter where you are, and proven to benefit your sleep, metabolism, bones, immunity and mood — wouldn’t you be willing to give it a try? Then bodyweight exercises should be right in your wheelhouse.

Despite the fact that the American College of Sports Medicine recommends that strength training become an integral part of every adult’s fitness program in order to get the most benefits of exercise, most people still don’t take advantage of all that strength-building exercises have to offer. (1) Because people usually cite reasons like a lack of time, no gym membership or not knowing how to use weight machines properly as obstacles to strength training, here’s an idea: Simply do bodyweight exercises instead!

Did you know that Americans lose on average more than six pounds of lean muscle mass for each decade of life? Some researchers estimate that our metabolic rate decreases 3 percent o 8 percent each decade from the age of 20, which can mostly be attributed to a natural decrease in muscle mass. (2) One of the best ways to maintain a strong metabolism and prevent your weight from creeping up? Work at building more muscle mass by challenging yourself to lift heavy things. Stressing your body with a heavy load makes it stronger, whether that load is a dumbbell, weights on a machine or your very own body.

Using your own weight to build strength couldn’t be easier: It’s totally customizable, can be done anywhere and at any time, requires no equipment or gym membership, and takes less than 30 minutes. If free weights, treadmills, group classes or exercise machines intimidate you, bodyweight exercises might be the very thing you need to break into a healthier routine. Here’s why …
Why Do Bodyweight Exercises?

Cardio (aerobic) exercises definitely have their benefits, but building muscle is equally important and often overlooked. Bodyweight exercises are a type of strength training, which helps rebuild muscle wear and tear that develops as we age. Numerous studies show that building lean muscle mass is also great for your heart, blood vessels, lungs, hormone production and even brain activity.

Various studies link different forms of strength training to: (3)

Another little-known benefit of bodyweight exercises and other forms of strength training is that they help reverse the negative effects that chronic dieting, or “yo-yo dieting,” can have on the body. You’re probably thinking, “Aren’t diets supposed to help improve your body composition?” Supposed to, yes, but consider this: Someone who has been dieting for years loses muscle tissue from both the process of aging and from a low-calorie diet that doesn’t supply enough nutrients to muscles to help them stay strong. Muscle is critical for maintaining a healthy weight because it’s actually metabolically active tissue, requiring more calories than fat just to be sustained.

How much strength training do you need to do each week? Most authorities recommend:

    Performing strength-training exercises at least two to three times per week. Each should be a “full-body workout” ideally, which uses multiple big muscle groups (like your back, legs, chest and core) to get the most bang for your buck.
    For each strength workout, aim to do eight to 10 different exercises, varying the muscles that each one targets. Each exercise is done in one set, and within each set you should perform eight to 12 reps.
    After completing your strength workouts, make sure to also stretch at least two to three days a week to prevent injuries and increase range of motion, flexibility and recovery time.

6 Benefits of Bodyweight Exercises

Whether or not weight loss, or even weight gain, is your primary goal, keep in mind that bodyweight exercises have benefits that are far beyond just improving your appearance. Here are several ways that doing bodyweight exercises can help you maintain better cognitive, immune, cardiovascular and hormonal health:
1. Help Build and Maintain Lean Muscle Mass

As you’ve learned, building strength is crucial for maintaining a strong metabolism as you age, since it increases lean muscle mass that naturally declines as someone gets older. Muscle mass plays a significant role in maintaining a healthy weight and general metabolic functions — for example, helping with insulin sensitivity, thyroid function and hormonal balance. Generally the more lean muscle you hold on your frame, the higher your basal metabolic rate is, which means you need more calories just to maintain your weight on any given day.

Ever notice that muscular athletes can get away with eating a lot? It’s not just that they’re training for many hours a day; muscles also burn more calories than fat does. When you build more muscle, you burn more fat even when you’re at rest or simply sleeping! Bodyweight exercises can also result in increased growth hormone production. Growth hormones are often referred to as our natural fountains of youth, because they’re what help us retain lean body mass and fat-burning abilities.

Finally, if you simply enjoy cardio workouts like running or swimming more than strength exercises, here’s some good news: Lifting weights of any kind gives you enhanced strength and performance, which provides more power for all sorts of exercises. For example, building strength in the back or core comes in handy when you’re running, while strengthening the shoulders is useful for swimming.
2. Improve Heart Health

Exercise of any kind causes the heart to pump blood stronger and more effectively, which reduces blood pressure levels naturally and improves circulation. The heart is strengthened just like any other muscle when it’s routinely put under more pressure, so it adapts by gaining the ability to do its job better.

Strength-training exercises are also tied to healthier blood cholesterol levels and less risk for a heart attack or stroke. (4) In fact, regular strength-building exercise is tied to increased longevity in general — even protection from cancer — since it prevents muscles from wasting and down regulation in the metabolism. (5) Even patients recovering from heart attacks or heart disease are now advised to do weekly dynamic resistance exercises to build back heart strength and endurance safely. (6)

3. Reduce Risk for Diabetes

Exercise is a natural remedy for diabetes since it helps with removal of glucose (sugar) from the blood, ushering the glucose into your muscles to be as stored as glycogen and used for energy at a later time. Another benefit of this process is that it prevents a high level of glycation end products from accumulating in the bloodstream, which over time can damage blood vessels, organs and tissues. (7)

Bodyweight exercises vs. weight machines - Dr. Axe

4. Improve Your Mood and Fights Depression

Some people refer to exercise as the body’s natural Prozac, since it biologically reduces stress and is tied to improvements in self-esteem, confidence, the ability to problem solve, better sleep and emotional health. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, chemicals that give you a natural high and lift your mood, helping naturally remedy depression and improve low energy levels. (8)
5. Help Maintain Cognitive Function

Strength training is often tied to longevity and a reduction in DNA damage due to the anti-aging effects of muscle mass. The hormone BDNF, which is stimulated by exercise, helps brain cells regenerate even as someone becomes older. Exercise also lowers oxidative stress and inflammation, which are tied to cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and so on. (9)
6. Improve Health of Joints and Bones

Increasing muscle mass offers protection of joints and bones, since stronger muscles mean that you rely less on your joints to move around. Exercising has been shown to help improve pain in the back, ankles, knees and hips, while also increasing bone strength and density. Weight-bearing exercises increase your body’s fortification of bone reserves and protect your skeletal frame, which is crucial for preventing fractures, falls and bone loss into older age (especially for women who are at a higher risk for osteoporosis). (10)
Bodyweight Exercises vs. Weight Machines

One of the common reasons that people avoid weight training, especially women, is that it can be intimidating. Weight machines at the gym, or even free weights you can use in your home, offer all the same benefits of bodyweight exercises because they build strength, but they also require an investment into buying the equipment and a bit more knowledge about how to use the equipment properly, which might mean needing to meet with a trainer.

There’s also the belief that weight machines offer a more narrow range of motion and target only specific muscle groups at once, but certain bodyweight exercises, and using free weights too, might be better for working numerous muscles simultaneously, including in different directions. (11)

For people new to strength training, bodyweight exercises are extremely accessible, convenient and modifiable. You don’t need any equipment or gym membership to do them, only your own body and enough space to jump around a bit. They’re simple enough that people can do them on their own without supervision and still be mostly safe from injuries. Compared to using heavy free weights or machines, using your own body is more forgiving and allows you to easily adjust the exercise to your ability level.

Many women are also fearful that lifting weights of any kind will change their body composition in a way that makes them look more masculine and less feminine. Scared that you’ll “bulk up” if you focus too much on building strength, instead of burning calories? But this just isn’t true — the female body is naturally great at becoming leaner, more toned and stronger, but not so much at putting on large amounts of noticeable muscle like men do. (12) Most women actually become smaller and “tighter” when adding in strength workouts to their routines because they tend to lose fat, plus muscle takes up less space than fat does despite weighing more.

That brings us to a good point. How about doing cardio workouts aimed at burning calories — how do those compare to strength-training or bodyweight exercises?

Building muscle helps keep your metabolism revved up, but simply doing more cardio doesn’t have the same effect. In fact, cardio can have the opposite effect, especially if you do too much of it without enough rest. Long cardio workouts might increase oxidative stress and joint damage, which leads to injuries, pains and illness. Ordinary steady-state cardio workouts — like running, swimming or cycling — are great ways to improve endurance, stamina and heart health while busting stress, but alone they can leave you prone to muscle-wasting due to aging and overtraining. (13)

It can depress the immune system, largely by raising cortisol levels and inflaming the body. Some studies have found that adults who do lots of cardio exercise (such as avid runners) can maintain general fitness well from aerobic activity, but they also tend to lose a certain amount of muscle mass from their untrained areas. For example, in runners, their muscles might stay the same size and carry the same strength in their legs, but muscle mass can decrease in their core and arms.

Long-term cardio, such as running marathons, might also have other effects over time like joint wear-out, bone loss, or altering hormone levels and neurotransmitter function. (14) A better idea? Build muscle throughout the whole body (while also preventing injuries, boredom or burn-out) by alternating cardio workouts with strength or bodyweight training.
Will Bodyweight Exercises Make You Lose Weight?

Yes and no. Everyone is different when it comes to the effects that exercise will have on their body composition, plus other factors like your diet, sleep and stress levels play a big part in whether or not you’ll lose weight fast, or even at all, in any given period. However, contrary to popular belief, adding bodyweight exercises to your weekly routine will likely give you better results than doing traditional cardio alone, and they’re certainly more likely to make you leaner than doing no exercise at all. (15)

Most studies have found that cardio workouts that are “steady-state” — meaning they’re done at the same intensity for the duration of the workout without any sprints/intense periods — usually have a lower metabolic and fat-burning potential than strength-training or HIIT workouts do. (16)

Building muscle can help with fat metabolism and can decrease cortisol levels, which are usually elevated in most stressed-out adults. Lowered cortisol levels help repair insulin sensitivity, which boosts your natural fat-burning potential. You might also be able to control your food intake and cravings better when you’re working on building strength, rather than just burning calories.

Cardio workouts (especially when you overtrain) are notorious for making people hungrier, which means long aerobic exercises might actually be antagonistic to weight loss. Studies have shown that most people end up eating more to make up for the calories they burn in cardio training, but some find that strength training doesn’t have the same effect.

Even when working on building muscle does make someone hungrier, luckily muscle mass requires more calories than fat and can come in handy if you increase your calorie intake. Plus, more muscle tone can help turn a woman’s body into an attractive hourglass figure by tightening the stomach, narrowing the waist, and shaping the glutes and legs. While bodyweight exercises might not cause a reduction on the scale, they’re going to change the way you look and feel in a good way.

In addition, eating enough to sustain a healthy bodyweight while also exercising helps prevent your body from entering “starvation mode,” which can occur if you’re dieting to lose weight and trying to maintain a calorie deficit. An unfortunate side effect of the “exercise more and eat less” equation that is often emphasized in the media is that when your exercise level is too high and you’re stressed out on top of that, your body may respond by down-regulating thyroid activity. And the slower your thyroid is working, the less likely you are to lose or maintain your weight since the thyroid hormone is crucial for an efficient metabolism.
How to Start Doing Bodyweight Exercises Now

Now that you know all the benefits of bodyweight exercises, let’s look at how you can get started. Overall, the idea is for you to integrate exercises that build strength all over, ideally by doing moves that use more than one body part (like push-ups, squats or burpees). Keep thing simple at first and and time-efficient, since the more convenient your exercise routine is, the more likely you are to stick with it. That’s one of the top exercise hacks there is.

Try creating your own circuit workout by combining 5–10 different bodyweight exercises below. Each can be done one after the other for the best results, without much rest in between. This gets your heart rate up quickly and gives you the benefits of a cardio workout at the same time.

After you go through a circuit of all 5–10 exercises, you can repeat the entire circuit again if you’re physically fit enough to so. If not, this is simply something to work toward. Do bodyweight exercise circuits 3–4 times per week, taking rest days in between (or alternating with cardio) to give your body time for proper muscle recovery.

How do you know how many repetitions you should do? Do what feels right and always focus on form, while listening to your muscles for feedback. Usually 12–20 is a good number of reps to aim for, but it depends on your abilities and level of fitness.

Begin with light loads and slow speed to get proper form down, then increase difficulty if you can maintain proper form by doing more reps or performing the exercise at a quicker speed. Your muscles should be fatigued at the end but not in complete pain, strained or injured.

To keep things interesting, you might want to also invest in some simple at-home tools that make incorporating bodyweight or strength exercises throughout the day easier than ever:

Adding High-Intensity Strength-Working Workouts

Instead of doing the same number of bodyweight exercise sets/reps, the same duration or a consistent level of intensity each time, try to keep challenging yourself. Kicking it up a notch and performing strength training at a higher intensity has numerous benefits. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) isn’t just for cardio; it can also take the benefits of bodyweight exercises to the next level. And just like doing slower circuit workouts, you can practice bodyweight burst training at home.

What qualities as high-intensity? During the “intense” interval you want to reach around 85 percent of maximum heart rate, which means you’ll be breathing heavily for a short, but difficult, period. Between intense intervals of performing reps very quickly, which should last about 30–60 seconds, take the same amount of time to rest.

Above 85 percent of your max heart rate is the anaerobic threshold, or the point at which your body starts experiencing an afterburn effect that causes you to burn calories long after the workout is over. At this point you should be sweating and really feeling the burn, but it’s well worth it — HIIT takes a shorter amount of time and has enormous health benefits relative to traditional cardio or circuit training workouts.
Takeaways on Bodyweight Exercises

While cardio has its benefits, nothing beats strength training for long-term weight management. And when it comes to strength training, bodyweight exercises are the safest, most convenient and least expensive workouts to do.

Not only do they use your own bodyweight to work out, but they build muscle that burns fat long after your workout is done. Bodyweight workouts are more attractive to people who find weight machines or the gym intimidating or too costly. And their benefits include more than just building lean muscle mass — which is the main, most impressive benefit, of course.

Bodyweight exercises also improve heart health, prevent and treat diabetes, improve your mood, help maintain cognitive function, and strengthen joints and bones. So stop making excuses and start your strength training today with bodyweight exercises! You’ll feel better, look better and become healthier overall!
High-intensity interval training , also called HIIT workouts, have become known in the fitness and medical world as one of the most effective means of improving cardiovascular health, respiratory endurance, as well as metabolic function.

HIIT workouts are known to be an excellent way to burn fat in a short period of time and to help improve the physical performance of athletes of all kinds. (1)

For most people, because it’s one of the great metabolism boosters, the biggest draw to a HIIT workout is its ability to keep the body burning fat even after the workout is over.
What Are HIIT Workouts?

High-intensity interval training is a type of exercise that involves repeated short bouts of high-intensity, or “burst” exercises, followed by brief recovery periods. This sequence is repeated several times in a row usually for a duration between 20–30 minutes.

Considering the fact that many people use “not having enough time” as a popular reason to avoid regularly exercising, HIIT workouts are one of the best ways to overcome this block and get great results fast.

A HIIT protocol is a well-researched way to reap physical benefits as an alternative approach to steady-state exercise training but with less of a time commitment. (2)

For example, recently a study compared the impact of two different types of exercise training on body fat and muscle metabolism: HIIT workouts versus steady-state exercise.

The study investigated the effects of calorie expenditure and fat loss in young adults and found that although HIIT workouts actually burned fewer calories during the actual workouts than did steady-state cardio exercise (likely due to its shorter duration), the HIIT program produced more fat loss than steady-state exercise did overall.

Additionally, the study concluded that while the HIIT workout helped build muscle, the steady-state workouts actually broke muscle down. Researchers concluded that not only does HIIT burn more fat over the duration of the day, but it also builds more muscle and improves metabolic function. (3)
How to Perform HIIT Workouts … and Why

The exact type of exercise performed during the “intense” internal periods can vary, such as performing sprints or doing faster reps of a particular move. What stays the same throughout different types of HIIT programs? The act of performing these stop-and-go intervals, meaning alternating between periods of hard “work” and “rest” or recovery.

A popular example of a HIIT workout can be running on the treadmill, alternating between a very fast pace and one that is easier and slower. In order to follow an interval schedule, you switch between sprints that require roughly 90 percent of your energy, followed by walking or slowly jogging to rest and recover.

Steady-state exercises, on the other hand, usually stay within the same type of “work” zone over time, with the amount of effort needed remaining consistent. (4)
HIIT Workouts Provide Benefits Fast

HIIT workouts have the ability to transform your body and physical abilities due to their effect on at least three important systems within the body:

Studies have shown that resistance-based interval training specifically benefits blood flow and blood vessel dilation. A study, published in the American Journal of Physiology — Heart and Circulatory Physiology, found that resistance-based interval exercising improved endothelial function in individuals that previously exercised, those that didn’t and those with type 2 diabetes.

When researchers measured blood flow before, immediately following and at one and two hours after working out, participants with type 2 diabetes saw improvements at each time. The other two participant groups experienced improvements one and/or two hours after exercising. (5)
 HIIT Workouts Boost Cardiovascular Health

Many studies are now showing that internal training — including HIIT workouts — promote greater improvements in VO2max and general fitness abilities than steady-state exercises do.

In fact, VO2max is considered the best indicator of cardiovascular endurance. This is the measurement most commonly used in fitness studies to show the effects that the exercise is having on the body. VO2 max is sometimes also called “max oxygen uptake” or “max aerobic activity” and is used to measure how well the body can use oxygen for energy.

Specifically, VO2max is defined as the maximum amount of oxygen (in milliliters) that a person can use in one minute per kilogram of their body weight. This measurement is important because the amount of oxygen that a person can utilize within one minute is an indicator of their overall fitness level and also their lung and heart health.

Due to the expansion of blood volume, the heart will undergo enlarging, or “hypertrophy,” during HIIT type of endurance exercises in order to allow the heart muscle to become bigger and stronger. (6)

By pushing your heart rate high during periods of intense work, you’ll be able to increase your cardiovascular ability and strengthen your heart. During the short rest intervals, you work on recovering more quickly and needing less time to rest. This is how you build stamina over time and increase your ability to perform physical exercises more effectively.

Performing short recovery segments in between the intervals where you’re working harder has the benefit of allowing you to keep the overall workout intensity high while still maintaining form.

While it’s hard to work very hard and maintain a high heart rate for an extended period of time because your body isn’t able to bring in enough oxygen, the rest/recovery periods of interval training allow you to catch your breath and for your heart rate to come down momentarily.

Knowing your VO2 max can help you to establish fitness goals to work towards and gives you a starting point as to how capable you are of maintaining a high level of effort over a period of time.
HIIT Workouts Trigger an Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen (EPOC) Effect

HIIT workouts also trigger something known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or “EPOC.” EPOC is the phenomenon of an increased rate of oxygen that your body uses following strenuous activity (7).

Your body uses more oxygen after hard workouts like those performed during HIIT because it’s making up for the body’s “oxygen deficit” that occurred during the difficult “burst” periods of the exercise. EPOC has many functions for the body, including that following a HIIT workout, your body goes into a recovery phase.

A higher level of oxygen is needed during recovery in order to facilitate in the restoration of hormone levels, refueling your glucose stores, and repairing your muscle fibers and tissue.

The best part about EPOC? It’s accompanied by an elevated need for bodily “fuel” or energy in addition to more oxygen. After intense exercise, fat stores within your body are actually broken down and free fatty acids are released into the bloodstream. During the post-workout recovery phase, these free fatty acids become oxidized and your body uses them for energy.

As your body uses more oxygen to bring itself back into a resting state, more calories are burned in the process, even while you are done working out. This means you continue to experience benefits and fat loss during the remainder of your day following a HIIT workout.

Another benefit of EPOC that results from HIIT workouts? New ATP (adenosine triphosphate) — which is the fuel source or energy that your body works off of — is also synthesized. Additionally, post-exercise oxygen is used to reduce lactic acid.

Lactic acid is formed during exercise and is responsible for giving you the “burning” feeling in your muscles when they are working hard.

Lactic acid travels via the bloodstream to the kidneys, cardiac muscle and liver during workouts; then an increased amount of oxygen is necessary to convert the lactic acid back to pyruvic acid so that your pain subsides and body enters a resting state.

Yet another use of EPOC is to fuel the body’s increased metabolism that results from the increase in body temperature experienced during exercise. Due to all of these vital tasks that the body must undergo during a period of EPOC, you can see why HIIT workouts have such a huge effect on your strength, stamina and health.
HIIT Workouts Release Muscle-Growth and Fat-Burning Hormones

Intense interval training circuits also stimulate muscle-building hormones while simultaneously using up calories and burning fat. The body produces the growth hormone known as IGF-1 during HIIT, for example, which allows the body to build lean mass muscle.
Who Are HIIT Workouts For?

Certain studies have shown that high-intensity exercise can be potentially unsafe for sedentary middle-aged adults. It’s best performed by those who are already somewhat active and have a healthy cardiovascular system.

That being said, anyone can work towards practicing HIIT workouts for their multiple benefits. However, if you aren’t already exercising, then it’s best to start slowly to avoid injury or more serious problems.

In conclusion, an exercise plan that includes consistent high-intensity interval exercise has been shown to improve body composition, boost cardio-metabolic health, lessen the risk for heart disease, and help improve exercise tolerance, even in obese and overweight participants. (8)

Research has shown that HIIT workouts are safe, efficient, well-tolerated and could help to improve adherence to exercise training given the limited time commitment that they require.

As long as you practice HIIT workouts responsibly and ease your way into a HIIT program, you can experience great results using HIIT workouts in combination with other forms of exercise that you enjoy.
How to Build Your Own HIIT Workout

No matter what your exercise preference is — whether running, biking, swimming or lifting weights, for example — you can practice HIIT workouts to improve your abilities. Even seasoned athletes use HIIT workouts to gain stamina and bust through plateaus that they are experiencing after practicing one particular type of exercise for a long time.

HIIT workouts are a great way to “shock” your muscles and to kick your body into high gear, allowing you to continue experiencing results and improvements after your body has gotten accustomed to your usual workout routine.

According to studies, it’s believed that an optimal HIIT workout produces maximum cardiovascular benefits when athletes spend at least several minutes per session in their “red zone” — yhis generally means reaching at least 90 percent of maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max).

In order to estimate when you are working at 90 percent of your VO2max, you can think about your level of perceived effort on a 1–10 scale; you should be aiming to give it “your all” and reach a score of nine out of a possible 10 for at least a few minutes during a 20–30 minute HIIT workout. (10)

In addition to focusing on your perceived level of effort and targeting a high VO2max, there are also other variables to consider.

Keep these physiological variables in mind, which researchers have noted are all-important for practicing HIIT workouts and continuing to show improvements:

    The amount of time you spent in your “intense” working interval

The longer you spend in your intense zone, the more of an effect the exercise will have. Start off with shorter bursts of intense periods and increase the duration as you build strength and stamina.

    The amount of time you spent in your “rest” and recovery interval

You will likely notice that you need less time to recover as your body adapts to HIIT workouts. Pay attention to how long of rests you are taking and aim to shorten the restful period duration as your abilities improve.

    The amount of reps you perform during your intense bursts

Instead of aiming to improve the duration of time you spend in an intense interval, you can also focus on how many reps you are able to do in a row, for example, or your speed of work.

You will likely notice your ability to do reps quickly improves as you become accustomed to HIIT workouts and that you need less recovery time in between sets. You may also notice that your sprints get quicker or your cycling pace gets faster if you choose to run or bike during your HIIT workout.

    The total number of interval series you are able to perform

It’s a good idea to start out with about 15–20 minutes of HIIT intervals and work your way up to 25–30 minutes if you’d like. The more your body gets used to the intensity, the more series you’ll be able to perform and your total workout length will increase.

    The time needed between HIIT workouts

Most experts recommend practicing HIIT workouts 2–3 times per week, but not much more than this. The body needs an adequate break period between HIIT workouts to fully repair and grow stronger.

In fact, this is just as important as the workout itself and if you fail to properly give yourself enough rest, you miss out on some of the benefits of HIIT.

That being said, you will improve your ability to practice HIIT workouts closer to each other as your recovery periods become shorter. Even after you’ve seen great improvements, it’s still best to allow 48 hours in between HIIT workouts and avoid practicing them multiple days in a row.

 Free weights and in this case, dumbbells, came onto the scene as a staple part of physical fitness and strength training as early as ancient Greece and in a similar form in India. Even back then, athletes and coaches understood the importance of strength and power for their performance and experienced a wide range of benefits in using this type of equipment.

Fast forward to the 17th century when dumbbells, as we recognize them today, were formed. The dumbbells resemble a barbell, just on a smaller and more portable scale. The versatility, mobility and accessibility of dumbbells make them a favored piece of equipment for individuals and group fitness classes.

We see the use of dumbbells in bodybuilding, CrossFit, kickboxing and barre classes and in a similar form during Strongman competitions. These fitness modalities recognize what the ancient Greek did about dumbbell exercises, that they are beneficial for developing raw power and strength, creating balance between the right and left sides of the body, and that using dumbbells can be just as effective as training with a barbell.

So what are the best dumbbell workouts for women? What are the best dumbbell exercises in general?
6 Benefits of Dumbbells

So, what are the benefits of using dumbbells? This list, though not exhausted, outlines the top six benefits of using free weight during a workout.

1. Dumbbells are beginner-friendly

The variety of strict dumbbell movements like biceps curls, shoulder press, bent row and deadlifts, combined with the assortment of available dumbbell weights, makes working with dumbbells accessible for any level of athlete. And with a small set of dumbbells, you can create challenging beginner dumbbell workouts at home.

2. Dumbbells can be used for a variety of exercises

This is one of the best reasons to begin working with dumbbells. The library of dumbbell exercises is extensive and includes almost any bodyweight movement and barbell movement. For example, if you had a workout that called for 50 squats, 25 push-ups and 10 burpees, you could perform the squats with dumbbells on your shoulders, a renegade row for your push-ups and a burpee deadlift for the burpees. A few adjustments and this bodyweight workout becomes much more challenging.

3. Unilateral training

Unlike training with a barbell, dumbbell exercises offer you the chance to work unilaterally, meaning one arm or leg at a time. With this type of training, you are more likely to create balance in strength between the right and left sides of the body. (1) We all have a dominant side and because of this, spending time strengthening our non-dominant side means an increase in overall strength.

4. Increases coordination between your brain and your muscles

The balance and stability required for many dumbbell exercises creates a scenario in which your mind and body must work together to perform these movements well. This improves not only your physical capacity but your mental capacity as well. (2)

5. Dumbbells beat weight machines

Strength or weight machines are built for average-sized individuals, so while some modifications can often be made, people with longer or shorter arms, for instance, can get injured by using improperly fitting machines. In addition, many machines allow your dominant side to take more of the weight, such as a chest machine. Conversely, dumbbells follow the natural biomechanics of your body (reducing risk of injury) and as mentioned above, train you unilaterally.

6. They can be used in a wide variety of exercises and for nearly every muscle group

There’s no other at-home workout equipment that I recommend more highly than a set of dumbbells … or one of those all-in-one varieties. You can workout every muscle group with the right dumbbells, from chest, back, shoulders, triceps and biceps to your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings and calves.
Best Dumbbell Exercises

There are many exercises you can perform with dumbbells and though many of them are great free weight exercises, there are a number of exercises that fall into the category of functional training. These type of dumbbell exercises mimic our bodies functional movement like squatting, pressing and pulling.

What are the best dumbbell exercises for dumbbell workouts? The list below is a combination of functional movements like the front squat and deadlift with targeted dumbbell exercises like biceps curls and bent row. Each movement on this list is also a great addition to any dumbbell workout routine and make for great dumbbell workouts for women.
Stiff-Legged Deadlift

Stand with your feet hips distance apart and your toes forward. Hold a pair of dumbbells by your sides with your palms facing your thighs. Keep your chest broad and your core tight as you bend your knees slightly. Then, bow forward keeping your back flat. Shift your hips back and allow the dumbbells to slide down your legs. Bring the front head of each dumbbell down toward the ground. This is the starting position of a deadlift. To lift the dumbbells back up, keep your back and core tight as you press through your feet to stand up the same way you lowered down. Try 5 sets of 10 repetitions. The weight of the dumbbells can vary but focus on maintaining good form before increasing the weight.
Dumbbell Clean

This dynamic movement using the mechanics of a deadlift plus a jump to bring the dumbbells from the ground to your shoulders.

From the starting position of a deadlift with the front heads of the dumbbells touching the floor, press through your feet and once the dumbbells are past the line of your knees, jump the dumbbells to your shoulders (palms facing each other, pinky finger edge of your palm is facing forward) by squeezing your legs and quickly pulling your elbows under as the dumbbells land on your shoulders in a front rack position. Try 3 sets of 15 repetitions with a light to medium set of dumbbells.
Box Step-Up

This dumbbell exercise is a great exercise for improving your balance as well as your core and leg strength. It’s a great addition to any full body dumbbell circuit workout as well as a stand alone exercise.

To perform this movement, you will need a step or a box that is between 15 and 20 inches or is at a height where when you place a foot on the box, that knee is in line with your hip. Hold onto the dumbbells by your side. Step onto the box with your right foot while keeping your chest up. Then, step down with your left. Alternate each step up through each set. Try 3 sets of 20 repetitions with a light to medium set of dumbbells.

Front Squat

Grab two light dumbbells and bring the dumbbells to your shoulders. In this position, your elbows should point forward in a strong front rack position. Bring your feet into a squat position or about shoulder-distance apart. With your toes turned forward (if mobility allows) and your feet completely flat on the floor, begin to shift your hips back and down into a squat. At the bottom of the squat your chest and elbows should be up and your heels completely flat on the floor. Drive down into your feet to stand. Try 5 sets of 10 repetitions.

With two light dumbbells in either hand, stand with your feet hip-distance apart. Keep your torso tall and your core tight. Step back with your right foot so that as you bring your right foot gently down to the ground, your left knee is stacked above your left ankle. Then, push off your left foot to bring yourself back to standing. Repeat on the second side. Try 5 sets of 10 repetitions.
Bent Row

Stand and hold to dumbbells by your sides. Bend your knees slightly as you bow forward at the hips. Let the dumbbells hand in front of your knees directly under the shoulders. Turn your palms to face your legs. With a flat back and strong core, draw the dumbbells up towards your shoulders as you pull your elbows up toward the ceiling. Then, return the dumbbells back to the starting position. Try 4 sets of 7 repetitions.
Renegade Row

Holding two light dumbbells in your hands, come to the top of a push-up or plank position. Separate your feet to about hips distance. Press down through the dumbbells while keeping your core and legs active and strong. Without letting go of the dumbbell, draw your right thumb to the front of your right shoulder to pull dumbbell off of the ground. Place the dumbbell back on the ground and repeat on the left side. Alternate between side for 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
Biceps Curl

Stand tall with a dumbbell in each hand. Keep your core tight and your shoulder relaxed away from your ears. Turn your palms away from your legs. One at a time, draw the dumbbell to the front of your shoulder and then return to the starting position. Alternate between your right and left side for 6 sets of 10 total repetitions.
Bench Press

For this exercise, you will need a bench or box to lie on. Sit on the bench with your feet on the floor. Hold two dumbbells and bring the bottom heads of the dumbbells to your thighs. Lie back and bring the dumbbells to your shoulders with the palms facing toward your knees. Begin to press the dumbbells up toward the ceiling as you keep your shoulder blades pinned to the bench and your feet flat on the floor. Bring the dumbbells back down to your shoulders to complete the repetition. Try 3 sets of 8 repetitions.
Strict Shoulder Press

Stand tall with a light dumbbell in each hand. Bring the dumbbells to your shoulders with your palms facing each other. Bring your feet to hips distance and keep your core tight and legs strong. Press the dumbbells overhead and finish with your biceps in line with your ears. Try 3 sets of 8 repetitions.
Dumbbell Workouts for Women

There’s an infinite number of ways to build workouts with dumbbells. But what’s the best dumbbell workout for women? Workouts that involve both dynamic upper and lower body exercises with a metabolic movement like running or burpees will increase overall core strength and stability while improving your cardiovascular fitness. Each of the workouts outlined below can be scaled to make the workout easier by changing and/or the weight of the dumbbells or the amount of repetition.

This first workout includes a few dumbbell exercises for weight loss — like the dumbbell front squat and dumbbell lunges — as well as a few dumbbell exercises for your shoulders and back. This type of time domain allows for rest within each minute. If you are not completing the set amount of reps with at least 15 seconds of rest before the next minute, reduce the amount of reps by 5.

*At the top of minute 6, being with 15x dumbbell front squats, then minute 7, begin with 10x dumbbell renegade rows, etc.

Dumbbell workout for women No. 2:

This second workout includes a few dumbbell exercise for women’s chest, arms and shoulders. Depending on your level of fitness, perform 3–4 rounds of the following workout. Focus on holding form throughout each movement and each round. If form is starting to break, reduce the number of reps per round or select a lighter set of dumbbells.

Dumbbells are one of the most versatile and accessible pieces of equipment at your neighborhood gym or for your home gym. They allow you to customize workouts to your current physical fitness, target areas that are weak or unstable, and create balance and symmetry within the body.

On the flip side, just like any other piece of equipment, we want to make sure we are performing the exercises correctly when doing any dumbbell workouts and with proper form to prevent muscle imbalances and injuries.

1. Always warm-up prior to starting your workout

Many people often skip warm-ups as they don’t see the benefit is adding that time to their whole workout. A good warm-up increases your heart rate and blood circulation, warms up large muscle groups through dynamic stretching and muscle activation and prepares your mind for the upcoming workout. Skipping your warm-up can lead to movement imbalances, injuries and a sluggish workout performance. So, before you start your workout take at least 7-10 minutes to warm-up.

2. During the warm-up, perform the movements without external weight

As part of your warm-up routine, practice the movements in your workout without external weight. Once you are warm, then begin to move with weight.

3. Practice with lighter dumbbells

Dumbbells are an amazing training tool but when we use dumbbells that are too heavy, it increases the likelihood of practicing improper form and can lead to injury. By choosing a lighter set of dumbbells, your building good movement patterns while learning what weight is appropriate for the workout.

4. Don’t forget to keep your core tight and stable

Almost all dumbbell exercises require you to stabilize your core before performing the lift. It is one of the main reasons why working with dumbbells is so beneficial. By focusing on your core during your workout, you will ensure that you’re executing the movement with proper and safe form.
When something sounds too good to be true, it often is. That isn’t the case, though, when it comes to high-intensity interval training (HIIT), specifically “one-minute workouts.” I like to call this type of exercise burst training, since it’s comprised of short, high-intensity bursts of exercise, with slow recovery phases, repeated during one exercise session. Burst training is done at 85 to 100 percent of your maximum heart rate rather than 50 to 70 percent in moderate endurance activity.

One of the most comprehensive studies to date comparing the cardiovascular benefits of HIIT workouts to more traditional, longer, moderate-intensity cardio suggests you’ll be able to reap incredible health benefits even when you’re in a time crunch. Translation: No more excuses to skip a workout.
Latest Research on One-Minute Workouts

McMaster University researchers set out to see how HIIT, also known as sprint-interval training, compared to moderate-intensity continuous training recommended in public health guidelines. The researchers were most concerned with the exercises’ impacts on cardiorespiratory fitness and insulin sensitivity. The small study placed sedentary men in a 12-week-long session of either three times a week intense exercise, three times a week moderate exercise, or a control group that didn’t perform any exercise.

The sprint-interval group’s total exercise session lasted just 10 minutes, featuring a two-minute warm-up, three-minute cool-down and three 20-second “all-out” cycle sprints. Each sprint featured two minutes of easy cycling for recovery. The moderate-intensity group involved five times as much exercise, featuring 45 minutes of continuous cycling each session.

When looking at cardiovascular fitness and blood-sugar control improvements, the high-intensity group’s results were nearly identical to the moderate-exercise group that spent much more time exercises. Indeed, the high-intensity group’s 10-minute workout featured just one minute of high-intensity exercise. (1)

It is important to note, though, that other research suggests HIIT may not be as beneficial to brain health as moderate-intensity training. (2) More research is needed in that department.
3 Health Benefits of HIIT

    It’s anti-aging. HIIT reduces expression of certain genes linked to accelerated aging. (3)
    It keeps your hunger hormones in check. Researchers out of the University of Bath in the UK found better hormone balance in individuals who participated in HIIT, or burst training. (4)
    Burst training is a proven way to burn off excess fat fast. (5)

This cycling interval workout is based on the “tabata” style of exercise, which usually consists of 20 seconds of hard work followed by 10 seconds of rest. This is not generally recommended for beginners. In order to do interval training, this same ratio can be used in any other form of exercise as well. There is also an increased risk for injury when performing exercises at a high-intensity for time, so focus on proper form and correcting muscle imbalances.

    Start by cycling at a restful pace for three minutes to warm up.
    Move into your interval period for the next 10 minutes, where you will be cycling as hard as you possibly can for 20 seconds and then resting for 10 seconds. You can use a timer to keep track of the time or count in your head. Repeat this interval schedule 10–20 times depending on your abilities and current fitness level.
    Cool down with a slow, restful three minutes of cycling.

Equipment-Free Home Workouts

Other ideas for burst training at home include running in place, jumping jacks, jump rope and squat pulses. Pick a handful and burst for 10 to 20 minutes, 3 to 5 times a week.
Final Thoughts on One-Minute Workouts

Not having enough time is the No. 1 reason most people skip workouts. This latest research suggests you can spend just 10 minutes a day (which includes just one minute of high-intensity exercise) to reap almost identical benefits of a 45-minute intensity workout like jogging or cycling. Beyond that, workouts for long amounts of time at moderate intensities has been linked to overtraining injuries and chronic high cortisol levels, increasing your risk of a number of diseases.

It is important to note, though, that you should concentrate on proper exercise form and improving any postural imbalances you may have to reduce your risk of injury from any type of exercise. High-intensity burst training offers many health benefits, but it’s still not clear whether more moderate exercise better benefits the brain. That’s a new area of research scientists are starting to investigate more.

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