While dumbbells are usually used to strengthen your larger muscles like quads, biceps, pectorals, glutes and hamstrings, lifting lighter weights can deliver additional strength, cardio and mobility benefits to your smaller stabilizer muscles.
Jess Rose McDowell, certified personal trainer and founder of KINETIC SWEAT, has compiled a list of five exercises you can do with lower-resistance weights. The exercises are designed to be performed using 5-pound dumbbells, though the actual weight you choose should be based on your fitness level.
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How do you know which weight is right for you? The weight you select should fatigue the main target muscle by the time you complete each set, but you should still be able to do all your reps with good form, according to the American Council on Exercise.
Perform 2 sets of each exercise, doing 12 reps on each side during the first and 15 reps on each side during the second. For exercises that don't switch sides, do 12 or 15 total, depending on which set you're doing. Rest 30 seconds between sets.
1. Runner's Lunge With Overhead Circle
- Get into a long runner’s lunge: One foot several feet in front of the other, front knee bent to 90 degrees, back leg straight, heels on the ground.
- Balance your weight between your feet, square your hips, activate your back leg glute.
- Hold one 5-pound dumbbell with both hands and bring the weight up and over your head in a circular motion in a clockwise direction. Perform slow, fluid movements and make sure you're breathing.
- Switch legs and rotate the weight counterclockwise overhead.
2. Sumo Deadlift to Sumo Squat
- Get into a wide squat position with feet pointing out at a 45-degree angle. Bring hips under you, keep your back flat and engage your core.
- With your 5-pound weight in both hands, slowly bend forward, keeping your hips high and back flat.
- Slowly bring the weight 2 to 3 inches from the ground, then start to lift it up to your knees.
- Bend your knees forward into a sumo squat position with arms in front of you. Use slow fluid movements, keeping your back flat.
3. Curtsy Lunge to Weighted Standing Abduction
- Hold the 5-pound dumbbell in your left hand and keep the right leg firmly anchored to the ground.
- Curtsy your left leg back behind the anchored leg.
- As you come back to a standing position, rest the weighted arm on your anchored leg and lift your laterally to 90 degrees.
- Lower back down into another curtsy lunge and complete all your reps on one side before switching legs.
4. Sumo Squat Alternating Overhead Press
- Get into a wide squat position with feet pointing out at a 45-degree angle. Place your 5-pound dumbbell directly on the floor in front of you.
- Bend your knees to lower into a sumo squat, keeping your hips under you and your core tight.
- Grab the weight in one hand, activate your glutes, keep your back flat and lift the weight to an overhead press as you stand straight up.
- Lower back down into a sumo squat, allowing the weight to hang in front of you.
- Complete all your reps on this side before switching arms.
5. Lying Triceps Extension to Crunch
- Lie on your back with both legs in the air directly over your hips and flex your feet, activating your quads. Take a deep breath and sink your lower back into the ground, keeping it there.
- With your 5-pound dumbbell in both hands, bring your arms to a 90-degree bend with the weight overhead.
- Extend your arms up straight, pulling your shoulder blades up off the ground into a crunch as you reach for your toes with the weight.
- Lower back down and repeat.
6. Figure 8 Crunch
- Start in a modified boat position: Sit on the ground and lean your torso back slightly with feet off the floor and knees bent so shins are parallel to the ground.
- Hold your 5-pound dumbbell in your right hand.
- Lift your left knee slightly and pass the weight to your left hand.
- Circle the weight over your left leg, then repeat on the right leg. The weight should make a figure 8 pattern through your legs.
7. Weighted Donkey Kick
- Start on all fours, hands under shoulders and knees under hips.
- Tuck a 5-pound dumbbell behind your left knee. And squeeze your leg to hold it in place.
- Activate your glute as you lift your left leg up until your thigh is parallel to the floor. Keep your hips level and squared to the floor.
- Lower back down with control and repeat.
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