Try This: 15 Free-Weight Exercises to Consider and Why You Should



Try This: 15 Free-Weight Exercises to Consider and Why You Should


Tips for success

Beginner routine

Intermediate routine

Advanced routine



Things to consider

Machines and cables and dumbbells, oh my! The gym floor is chock-full of equipment to choose from, but where should you start?


Although machines have their place — they’re great for beginners as they assist with form and allow you to lift heavier — free weights can give you more bang for your buck.


Free weights include any weight you can pick up and move around, such as dumbbells, barbells, and kettlebells.


Unlike machines, where the movement — and you — are fixed, free weights allow you to work in any range of motion you’d like. This requires you to work against gravity and use those stabilizer muscles to engage.


Below, we’ve curated 15 free-weight exercises for beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels. Are you ready to get lifting?


How to maximize your training

Before you start a new workout regimen, think about how to maximize your time and effort.


Set a goal

Are you looking to build strength, gain size, or increase your endurance? Decide what your goal is and create your regimen accordingly.


To build strength and size, stick with high weight, low reps, and more rest between sets.


For endurance, go for lighter weights, higher reps, and less rest between sets.


Set a schedule

Whatever your goal, aim to work out 4 or 5 days per week.


You can get a good workout in 20 minutes or in an hour, so don’t worry about duration as much as the quality and composition of your routine.


Avoid training the same muscle groups hard 2 days in a row; recovery is super important to progress.


Order is important

In general, you’ll want to perform harder, full-body exercises, like squats, before more targeted, smaller movements, like bicep curls.


Your goal determines your weight

Choose heavy, challenging weights — whatever that means for you — if your goal is to gain strength and size.


Opt for lighter (but still challenging at the end of your set) weights for more of an endurance approach.


Proper form is a must

If you don’t perform exercises with proper form, you could miss out on benefits of the movement, or, in more serious cases, cause injury.


Practice the movement with your body weight before you add additional weight.


Once you’ve thought these points through, begin with one of routines below.




Create a movement routine that you can do at home

Our Move Your Body Challenge has one exercise for 25 days to build a routine, no equipment needed.



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Beginner routine

If you’re new to lifting weights, don’t fret. This beginner-friendly free-weight routine is a great place to start.


As a beginner, focus on working up to 3 sets of 10–12 reps of each of these exercises with as light of a free weight as you need. Rest for 1 minute between sets.


When this gets easy, choose a heavier free weight. After you’ve upped your weight several times and feel strong in the movements below, move on to the intermediate routine.


Weighted glute bridge

Glute bridges are a key exercise to strengthen the posterior chain, or the back of your body.


This exercise hits many of the same muscles as a squat would without placing undue stress on your lower back.


The main muscles worked include your:





How to:


Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Position a dumbbell just above your hip bones, holding it in place with your hands.

Brace your core and push up through your heels, hiking your hips up to the sky and squeezing your glutes as you go. At the top, your body should form a straight line from shoulders to knees.

Pause here, then release back to starting position.


A lunge is a unilateral lower body exercise, meaning it works one leg at a time.


It’s a great movement to promote leg strength, as well as balance. It can also help remedy strength discrepancies from side to side.


Lunges work bigger muscles like your:






Practice this movement with just your body weight to ensure that you’re stable. When you’re ready, use lightweight dumbbells to start.


How to:


Hold one dumbbell in each hand with your arms down by your side and your feet shoulder-width apart.

Lift your right foot off the ground and take a big step forward, bending your knee and lowering your body as you go. Stop when your right thigh is parallel to the ground. Ensure that your chest stays proud and your shoulders stay back throughout the movement.

Push up from your right foot, returning to starting position.

Repeat, lunging with your left leg.

Overhead shoulder press

Improve your balance and posture and strengthen your entire upper body with the overhead shoulder press.


This move works your:






Start with two lightweight dumbbells, ensuring that you have the movement down before working on building strength.


If you feel your lower back straining or your torso moving to push the weight overhead, try splitting your stance to provide more balance, or try a lighter free weight.


How to:


Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and a dumbbell in each hand.

Bring the weights up to the fronts of your shoulders, palms facing out.

Keeping your core braced and torso upright, push the dumbbells up, extending your arms as you go.

Pause at the top, then release, bending your elbows and letting the weights come back down to above the shoulders.

Single-arm dumbbell row

An accessible exercise for beginners, the row also hits all of those important posture muscles, like your:





rear deltoids

You’ll just need one dumbbell. Choose a moderate weight to start.


How to:


Position yourself next to a bench, table, or other elevated surface, bracing yourself with your torso slightly bent.

Split your stance and hold a dumbbell in your free hand.

Row up, pulling your elbow up and back and squeezing your shoulder blade.

Pause at the top, then release and repeat.

Floor press

Essentially a chest press on the ground, a floor press is a great exercise to teach bench press to beginners because you can feel your shoulder and back engagement with your upper body flat across the floor.


The main muscles worked in the floor press are your:




anterior deltoids

How to:


Lie with your back and feet flat on the ground with a dumbbell in each hand.

Position your upper arms at a 45-degree angle to your body with the dumbbells in the air.

Push the dumbbells up by extending your arms.

Pause at the top, the return to starting position.

Intermediate routine

If you’re no stranger to weightlifting, or if you’ve graduated from the beginner routine, try the intermediate routine below.


Complete 3–4 sets here, with a minimum of 8 reps and a maximum of 15.


Regardless of how many reps your programming is calling for, you should barely be able to complete the last one with proper form. Adjust your weight accordingly if this isn’t the case.


Barbell back squat

Touted as a “functional” exercise, squats have a plethora of benefits.


Not only will they strengthen some of the largest muscles in your body, they’ll help you perform everyday tasks with ease.


Weighted squats can actually be considered a full-body exercise, but they target muscles like your:






Choose a lightweight barbell to start, as you’ll have to safely load it onto your shoulders from the floor.


Once you can back-squat more than 30 or so pounds, transition to a squat rack to ensure that you can set up and squat safely.


How to:


Load a barbell onto your shoulders, positioning your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.

Initiate the squat by sitting back in your hips, then bending your knees. Keep your chest up and gaze ahead.

When your thighs hit parallel, pause and push up back to starting position.

Barbell deadlift

Deadlifts are a super beneficial exercise to incorporate into your routine, but nailing correct form can take some practice.


Because it hits muscles from head to toe, the strength benefits are nearly unmatched.


The main muscles targeted include your:




erector spinae



Again, start light here until you can execute with proper form. Deadlifts have a reputation for stressing the lower back.


How to:


Place a barbell on the ground and stand right behind it, feet shoulder-width apart.

Hinge at the waist with a straight back, bend your knees, and grip the barbell.

Roll your shoulders down and back, inhale and pull the barbell up by straightening your legs.

Once your legs are straight and the barbell is resting against your body, sit back in your hips, bend your knees, and return the barbell to the ground.

Bent-over row

A progression on the single-arm dumbbell row, the bent-over row takes it up a notch with no added support and two dumbbells instead of one.


Muscles worked include your:





rear deltoids

lower back

In this variation, you’ll target your core, too.


How to:


Hold a dumbbell in each hand with extended arms. Hinge at your waist 45 degrees, keeping your back straight and neck neutral.

Bracing your core, pull your elbows up and back, squeezing your shoulder blades at the top.

Pause here, then release back to starting position.

Floor chest fly

Challenge your chest in a different way with the floor chest fly.


You really need to be in tune with what muscles are initiating the movement here to ensure that you’re executing with proper form.


Main muscles worked include your:



anterior deltoids


How to:


Lie on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the ground.

Position a dumbbell in each hand and extend your arms out so your body forms a T shape. Your palms should be facing up toward the ceiling.

Keeping a slight bend in your elbow, brace your core and pull the dumbbells up toward the center of your body, using your chest muscles to do so.

When the dumbbells touch in the middle, pause and release back to starting position.

Arnold press

A progression on the overhead shoulder press, the Arnold press — made famous by Arnold Schwarzenegger — requires a bit more finesse. It targets the front of the shoulder a bit more.


Muscles worked include your:





How to:


Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand.

Bend your elbows like you’re doing a bicep curl, bringing the dumbbells to your shoulders with your palms facing your body. This is the starting position.

Brace your core and begin to rotate your palms out while you simultaneously extend your arms above your head.

Pause here, then release back to starting position, rotating your palms back toward your body as you go.



  1. Reply

    Thanks it’s helpful

  2. Reply

    Thanks for this piece

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  4. Reply

    Exercises promotes healthy living

  5. Reply

    Nice info thank for the update

  6. Reply

    Interesting but I don’t wanna lose weight now

  7. Reply

    Really good at home workout

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  13. Profile photo ofExcel01


    I need to gain weight

  14. Reply

    Awesome post…. Thanks for sharing

  15. Reply

    Awesome article

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    need to gain weight

  17. Reply

    Yea true

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  19. Reply

    Good article

  20. Profile photo ofYusuf



  21. Reply

    Thanks for sharing this update

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