Dumbbells Are Smart!
Almost 2,000 years of proven success convinced me.
By Samantha Cavalli
It was a vacation countdown that stirred thoughts (panic) about the state of my abs and arms and legs and rear-end and, and, and...and gave me hives. I then got my boyfriend caught up in the frenzy. Our island vacation was in about four months (yes, I knew the days, hours, minutes, etc.) and I wasn't having any luck finding a full-length bathing suit and informed my boyfriend that it might be hard to snorkel fully-clothed. This was serious; we were desperate. We needed something effective, inexpensive and easy to shove under the bed. Why are you laughing?
Little did I know dumbbells have long been overlooked, unappreciated and often used as a workout afterthought. I guess if you think about it, fad diets, trendy workouts and numerous fly-by-night fitness "machines" have come and gone; however, the first use of dumbbells can be dated back to the 2nd century! So what's so great about dumbbells? From what I discovered, it seems as though dumbbell workouts have always been an easy, inexpensive way to get in shape, strengthen muscles, burn calories and raise your heart rate.
OK, I was interested. Dumbbells would definitely fit under the bed. With some concentrated research, I unearthed five compelling dumbbell facts:
- When people think of dumbbell workouts, they often think of just exercising the arm muscles (biceps and triceps). But a complete body workout can be performed with a pair of dumbbells.
- Free weights are not just for men; over 95% of the world population works out with a pair of dumbbells, with a maximum of 30-lbs of weight.
- If done properly, lifting weights takes more energy, works more muscles and burns more calories per session than swimming or running.
- Lifting weights on a regular basis increases muscle, which in turn helps you lose weight. One pound of muscle burns around 12 times more calories than fat.
- One of the secrets to losing weight is lifting weights. With just two workouts a week you'll notice a significant difference in your overall shape and size in just four weeks. (I discovered that this is true. Read on!!)
Surprisingly, working out with dumbbells takes more muscle power over other types of fitness equipment that work on the same theory of resistance training. The movement of each individual dumbbell must be stabilized by the hand in which it is being held, which requires significant balance and control from the surrounding arm muscles. Ironically, barbells are easier to lift and balance than dumbbells because a barbell allows the strong side of your body to compensate for the weak side.
In addition, using free weights exercises the whole muscular system, not just the specific muscle you're targeting, because muscles elsewhere in the body have to balance the weights and keep them moving smoothly on the intended exercise path. This, in turn, burns more calories and increases your overall strength, balance and posture. Fortunately for those lacking coordination abilities, dumbbell exercises use many of the body's natural movement patterns so you don't have to get used to awkward movements or positions and the flexibility of dumbbell workouts means that you can target specific areas of the body very effectively.
OK, so my boyfriend and I were sold, and almost three months later we were still using our dumbbells! We were shocked at how quickly we noticed differences in our bodies. (My upper arms tightened up right away, which was enough to make me officially addicted.)
There are a couple nuggets of advice I can throw your way; first, remember the old adage...less is more. For example, don't think that using overly heavy weights for three sets will produce better, faster results. Instead, lighten your load and do six sets slowly, with proper form. It will give you far better results in the long run and won't make you feel like a truck hit you!
Second, don't get bored by doing the same routine over and over. There are so many different ways you can target your "issue" areas with dumbbells. Go online to find exercises to mix up your routine. Creating a list of exercises that target each set of muscles you wish to firm up allows you to pick and choose every time you begin your workout. Also, I highly recommend hanging up pictures (from the internet or magazines) of bodies/body parts or signs with your goal weight and/or measurements - whatever keeps you fired up! The visual images will constantly remind you of the healthy, fit, sexy, muscular, ripped, hot, (insert your word here) body you will soon have.
Third, schedule and track your workout routine in four-week chunks. It's a short enough time frame to feel like your end goal is achievable, but it's a long enough time frame to see and feel significant results. On the first day of your workout routine, commit to using your dumbbells for 30 minutes, three times a week, for four weeks. Print out a one-month calendar and keep it handy to schedule, and then cross off, the days you worked out. It's an effective visual to track your progress. At the end of the first four weeks you will definitely see and feel major changes in your body which will inspire you to kick off the next four weeks, and so on.
Believe me, it didn't take long for my boyfriend and I to start replacing the horrifying vacation images of ourselves "wallowing" on the beach with images of us as fabulous, pretty people, frolicking in the sand! Bottom line...the effectiveness, versatility, practicality, under-the-bed-size and price of dumbbells absolutely made them a "healthy" investment for us. Four thumbs up here!
Samantha Cavalli is a freelance writer living in Southern California. You can contact Samantha via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please don't send any spam.