The first step in strengthening the arms is determining which size weights to use. In order to select the best hand weights for toning and muscle building, you'll want to make sure your dumbbells aren't too heavy or too light. Factors like maintaining proper form, getting expert advice and taking the type of exercise you'll be doing into consideration contribute to the appropriate dumbbell size for you.
Before selecting a weight size, conduct a simple dumbbell test, and consider which muscle groups you'll be working.
Start With Dumbbell Basics
Before purchasing dumbbells, there are few basics you'll want to keep in mind. If you're looking to purchase dumbbells, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends practicing with them beforehand to test weight and comfort.
The handle should feel good in your hand, and the weights shouldn't cause too much muscle fatigue during lifting. A salesperson or professional can help you determine the proper amount of weight according to your strength.
When using dumbbells, consider which component of muscle fitness you'd like to hone. If you're weightlifting for muscle strength, the ACSM suggests doing five to eight repetitions and one to three sets (groups of repetitions) for muscle strength, 15 to 20 repetitions and one to three sets for muscle endurance, and three to five repetitions and one to three sets for muscle power. You should rest at least one minute between sets.
Remember: Form Matters
Focus on keeping your form intact. You may be able to lift more with bad form because you're using other muscle groups, but doing so could cause injury and wouldn't necessarily target the correct muscles. On the website Daily Burn, fitness trainer Ben Booker, suggests dropping dumbbell weight or stopping as soon as you start to get out of proper form.
You can conduct a simple dumbbell test from Daily Burn — also a good guide to bicep curls for beginners — to find out which weights are right for you and help you maintain proper form:
- First, stand with a dumbbell in each hand close to your hips, palms facing forward. Position your shoulders and elbows against the wall.
- Next, curl the weights up until they reach shoulder level. Then bring them back down to where you began. Don't move your upper arms while you do this.
- Maintaining this position, do your reps, raising your arms for one or two counts and lowering them for one or two counts.
- If you're straining too much or break your form after around 14 repetitions, you may want to choose a dumbbell that's 5 pounds lighter. If you find you can easily do more than 22 repetitions, you may want to choose a weight that's 5 pounds heavier.
Considering Exercise Type
Before selecting which size dumbbells to use, consider what type of exercise you're planning to do. In a 2014 article published in SELF, Cori Lefkowith, Orange County-based personal trainer and founder of Redefining Strength, suggests asking yourself which muscle group you'll be working.
For instance, if you're working the glutes and doing squat lifts, a heavier weight might be better. But if you're working the back of the shoulders, a smaller muscle group, you can go with lighter weights.
Generally speaking, large muscle groups or multiple muscle groups working together on compound exercises are usually able to lift more weight than smaller muscle groups.