Tips for Training With Free Weights

By Jonathan Bales , last updated December 4, 2011

If you're looking for a more complete workout, then you may want to consider the following tips for training with free weights. Many novice weightlifters opt for machines, as machines are simple and have some benefits; however, experienced weightlifters know that free weights generally provide the best and most complete workouts. Free weights force you to stabilize the weight, as it does not move in a fixed plane like a machine. This forces you to use more muscles while lifting the weight, causing your to grow bigger and stronger while burning more calories. Plus, working with free weights has actually been proven to be better for fat loss than even cardio exercises like jogging or cycling. In terms of shaping your body, nothing beats training with free weights. There are some things to remember when training with free weights, however.

Safety First

A lot of people want to see how much weight they can lift, but weight should never be added if it compromises safety. Make sure you never lift more weight than you can handle in a controlled manner. Opt for slow, controlled repetitions over throwing the weight around. Not only will this keep you safer, but it is also a more effective way to build muscle. People forget it is not the number of reps or the amount of weight that matters, but the quality of the lift. When you do use heavy weights, make sure you have a spotter available to help you if there is trouble. That is particularly true on full-body exercises like squats, clean and jerks, bench presses, and so on, where a failure to lift the weight can cause serious injury if you are not protected.

Emphasize the Negative Portion of the Exercise

Almost all weightlifters focus on the positive portion of reps, which is the "hard" part where you either push the weight away from your body or pull it towards you. The negative aspect of the exercise, though, is even more important. When in the negative portion of a rep, you are fighting the weight from going as it wants (with gravity). This uses different muscles than in the positive phase, and you are robbing yourself of half your workout if you simply let the weight fall back to its resting spot instead of moving it in a controlled way.

Stick to Full-Body Exercises

There are all kinds of unique exercises out there, but advanced weightlifters know the best ones are still the simple, full-body variety. Stick to exercises like squats, deadlifts, clean and jerks, bench presses, and so on. These types of exercises force you to use a variety of muscles in your body to move weight, which leads to greater strength and muscle gains. Even if your goal is to burn fat and lose weight, full-body exercises are the way to go, as they cause a much more dramatic spike in calorie burning than machines or more targeted free weight exercises (like bicep curls, for example). Instead of throwing all kinds of new isolation exercises into your workout routine, use full body exercises as the core of each workout.

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