Dumbbells are used for strength training usually on the muscle groups found on the upper body. You can also use it for lower body workouts to increase resistance especially for leg exercises. In order to maximize weight training, you may add more weight to the dumbbells to increase resistance but when should you do so? Let me share some of my experiences in using dumbbells for weight training.
First and foremost, it will depend on your strength. If you’ve just started your workout and you’re struggling on the 6th repetition of a bicep curl, if you increase the weight considerably let’s say 5 pounds, you’ll most likely struggle on the 4th repetition or so on the next set. Let your muscles take advantage of the current weight first and once you notice that you’re not struggling anymore after a few additional repetitions then you can increase the weight.
Just be reminded that dumbbells are much more limited than barbells. It’s going to be awkward if you put two 50-pound plates. It is possible that you can lift that weight especially if your muscles are already that strong but with the size of the plate, it may hamper your wrist movements. It is very important that you have flexibility since dumbbells are free weights and it is more effective if you have a full range of motion.
You should also consider the muscles on your arms. If you can’t steadily hold a dumbbell weight then you should decrease the plates. How can you flex your biceps if you can’t even control the grip on the dumbbell? Or worse, if you occasionally drop the dumbbell because your arms are already tired? On the other hand, if it’s already too light then it may be more beneficial if you increase the weight.
The amount of weight that you add or remove is relative to your strength. It doesn’t mean that if you friend can do 10 more pounds on each dumbbell you can do it as well. It should be more than enough to give resistance during the beginning of the set and it should give you a really hard time on your final rep. Increase the weight gradually to let your muscles adjust to heavier weights easier.
As you can see, it will mostly depend on what routine you’ll be doing and what muscle groups you are trying to work out. If it’s the smaller muscles then use lighter weights. These include your biceps, triceps and shoulders. But if you’re going to use it for bigger muscles such as your back and your legs, the weight should be considerably heavier. The rule of the thumb, regardless of what muscle group you want to train, is that it should not be too heavy or too light. I can see my muscles develop much faster using a comfortable weight with 12 to 15 reps per set. I may work for me but it may not work for you but you can always try it.