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Discover working out with dumbbells and other free weights

The conventional thinking used to be that the only way to develop muscle was to load as much weight as you could handle onto a barbell, lie down on a weight bench and do bench press after bench press until big arms and a big chest emerged. That way of thinking has pretty much dissipated, and many athletes – both those looking to get toned and those looking to get big – have turned to free weights as a great way to stay in shape.

The average dumbbell has a simple design: adjustable dumbbells feature a small bar, usually no more than 2 to 5 pounds itself, with grooved tips (often called spin-locks) that allow a user to slide steel plates of varying weight onto each end, thereby increasing the difficulty of each motion. However, there are dumbbells that are not adjustable, and these, usually part of a set, tend to combine a plastic outer casing with a heavy material inside, sometimes cement.

It's not known for sure where the dumbbell first emerged, but there are stories of wrestlers using dumbbell-like designs in India centuries ago. Also, it's said that athletes in Tudor England used hand-held church bells shaped like today's dumbbell to develop their arms and upper body.

Advantages of Dumbbells

The advantage of using dumbbells, or any kind of free weight, is that not only does the actual weight act as a challenge that can lead to real muscle development, but so does gravity. Unlike many weight machines, like Smith machines, free weights don't restrict movement and are generally considered more challenging. A dumbbell set is also generally affordable and don't take up a lot of space, so many of the exercises associated with free weights can be done in the comfort of your own home, saving time and money.

Disadvantages of Dumbbells

While it's certainly convenient that you can use free weights in your living room or basement, that also means that improper form is less likely to be noticed and corrected by a trainer. Make certain that you have a proper grip of the weights and that your feet are firmly planted. Also, start with a reasonable weight and move your way up from there. Jumping right to weights that are too heavy for you, whether you're using a dumbbell set or barbells, can cause significant injury. It's advisable that you first check with a doctor and then a weight training professional before engaging in such activity.

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