Updated: Jun 13
If there’s one piece of gym equipment that everyone should use, it’s dumbbells. Whether you’re doing your workout at home or in the gym, they’re a really versatile intro to free weights, capable of training the whole body, and are great for beginners.
There’s definitely more to dumbbell life than just bicep curls, and to help you get started, we’ve outlined everything you need to know in this Beginner’s Guide to Dumbbells.
What size dumbbells for beginners?
If you’re just starting out, knowing what weight dumbbells to buy or pick up at the gym depends on the exercises you’re doing and which muscle groups you’re working.
For example, because the bicep is a larger muscle than the tricep, you would choose a heavier weight for bicep curls than you would for tricep kickbacks.
That’s why it’s really important to learn the exercises properly with correct form and a weight that allows you to have full range of movement.
If you find yourself unable to maintain control or reach full movement during the exercise, you’ve probably gone too heavy. There’s no shame in going lighter to complete the exercise correctly with good form – you’ll work your body safely, avoid injury, and most importantly you’ll get better results!
Are dumbbells effective?
Because dumbbells are free weights and not attached to any machine, you can move more naturally and improve your balance, stability and coordination while building muscle in your arms, legs, core and back.
But the answer to whether dumbbells are effective relies not only on the type of exercises you’re doing, but also the combination (e.g. trisets), the rest periods between sets, and whether you’re increasing the weight as your body gets stronger.
That’s why having a set workout and progressive training programme is so important to get the best results.
None of us have hours on end to spend at the gym, and going without a plan is like going shopping without a list. Sure, you’ll do a workout, but you’ll probably be there longer, do exercises that don’t work together or complement each other, and waste time and money in the long run.
How to lift dumbbells for beginners
If you’re a beginner looking to start weightlifting with dumbbells, we’ve got a whole bank of video and blog content with beginner dumbbell tips and exercises:
Our top tips for weightlifting beginners:
Don’t go too heavy!
Just because it’s physically possible to pick up the heavier weight, doesn’t mean you should. It’s far better to go lighter and be able to complete the full range of movement in an exercise to avoid injury and complete the exercise safely.
Movements should be slow and controlled
With weight training, it’s all about tempo, and keeping the muscle under tension for the longest possible time, whilst maintaining control. Slow and steady definitely wins the race!
Focus on the muscle you’re trying to work
You might hear a PT saying ‘squeeze at the top’ – this mind to muscle connection can really help you maintain stability, activate the right areas and stay focused.
Gradually increase the working weight
Increasing the weight slowly and incrementally will keep your body working hard as you get stronger. Our bodies are clever machines and adapt quickly, so it’s important to keep yours guessing if you want to see continued results!
Don’t skip rest days!
Rest is just as important as training, if not more important! When you lift weights you’re actually creating tiny micro-tears in your muscle fibres, and it’s not until you rest that your body has a chance to repair them. It’s this repair process that makes your muscles stronger, so if you don’t have a day off, that can never happen!
The humble dumbbell is a jack of all trades and master of many in weight training. Remember to choose a weight that feels challenging but gives you full range of movement for whatever exercise you’re doing – and when that starts to feel easier, increase the weight. And remember to be patient when it comes to seeing results. You’ll feel results long before you start to physically see them, but it’s definitely worth the wait!
Here's a full body workout from Tirrel, using dumbbells (for beginners) in case you'd like to give it a go yourself!
Want to learn more about workin g out and some of our tips? Give some more of our blog posts a read: