Regular strength training can mean improved bone density, stronger muscles and connective tissues, a higher resting metabolic rate and an enhanced ability to carry out everyday activities, reports the American Council on Exercise. A healthy adult should strive for a minimum of twice weekly total body workouts that involve eight to 10 total exercises for a minimum of eight to 12 repetitions, recommends the American College of Sports Medicine.
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Choose dumbbells that make the last one or two repetitions in each set challenging, but still doable with proper form. The advantage of dumbbells is that they require multiple muscle groups to activate to help you stabilize, even when you are targeting a specific body part. A complete body workout could begin with lower body exercises. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms hanging alongside your body or on your shoulders as you perform squats and walking lunges. Move on to the larger muscles of the upper body and perform single arm rows for the back and the flat bench chest press for the pectoral muscles. Biceps curls, triceps kickbacks and lateral shoulder raises round out your workout. Remember that you can choose different weights of dumbbell to maximize each exercise's effects.
Machines, such as a smith machine, are a valuable tool for beginners because they can help support your body and promote proper form. Beginners should stick to selectorized machines that feature weight adjustment with the simple placement of a pin on the weight stack. More advanced exercisers might incorporate plate loaded and cable machines into their total body routine. A selectorized total body workout entails a visit to each of the following machines: lat pull-down, seated rows, chest press, military press, biceps curls, assisted triceps extension and the leg press.
Barbells are another type of free weight that can be used to achieve a full body workout. Beginners might use just the bar, without weight plates, and as you become more adept add weights that cause fatigue in the desired number of repetitions. To train the lower body, perform hip hinges with the bar held in front of your thighs and squats with the bar held behind the shoulders. Barbell squats also work the arms and upper back -- your upper body supports the barbell during the squat. For the back, execute bent-over barbell rows. Lie down on a weight bench to do chest presses. You will likely need to lighten the weight to perform a front arm shoulder raise to train the anterior deltoids and triceps. Train your biceps with a traditional barbell curl.