Top 5 Best Free-Weight Exercises

dumbbell curl free weight exercise


Using free weights can help you to build strength and improve your overall fitness, but they can be a little daunting to those who haven’t used them before!

Free weights are very versatile and can offer you a lot of freedom within your exercise routine, but knowing what exercises to choose can depend on your goals.

While there’s nothing wrong with just doing bodyweight exercises, adding free weights to your workout can increase the effectiveness and help you work harder.

Let’s take a look at some of the best free weight exercises to get to grips with…

Understanding Free Weights Exercise

Typically using free weights means your body will be working harder, as the weights create resistance as your muscles are trying to move. This can help to build muscle and fitness more effectively than bodyweight exercise alone.

Free weights consist of a few different pieces of equipment that are easy to handle, including dumbbells, kettlebells and barbells.

If you are a beginner, be sure to start with lighter weights until you feel comfortable and more confident. Whichever weight you choose, it should be enough to make the last couple of reps feel challenging. This can usually take some trial and error until you find the right weight for your ability.

Push vs Pull Exercises

You may have heard of a push-pull training schedule, which splits your exercise and helps to target different muscles. Your muscle groups will be classed as either push or pull, and it can be helpful to incorporate both into your workout.

Pull exercises typically make the muscle contract as you pull the weight towards you, and the muscle then lengthens when the weight pulls away from your body. These are known as concentric and eccentric phases respectively.

It’s often recommended to include both push and pull exercises into your workout, as opposed to working on one body part per day. This is simply because you can get more out of your exercise routine!

Top 5 Exercises to Do with Free Weights

Now, let’s look at 5 exercises you can do with free weights for your next workout.

Back or front squat

The squat is known as a push exercise, and you can use weights to help your muscles work harder. You can use dumbbells or a barbell for a weighted squat, and you can rack the weights behind your shoulders or in front. Depending on where you place your weights, you can work different areas of your body. A back squat will work your glutes and hamstrings, while a front squat will engage the quads and upper back,

Ensure your feet are shoulder width apart with your toes pointing slightly outwards. Most importantly, keep your back straight and sit back and down as if you were sitting on a chair.

Overhead press

An overheard press is another push exercise and consists of lifting a weight above your shoulders. Again, you can do this with dumbbells or a barbell, but typically a barbell makes it easier to push both sides of your body at the same time. This exercise primarily works your shoulders, but also taps into your core strength as you stabilise your position through the exercise.

Your feet should be shoulder width apart again, with your hands just wider than your shoulders. Make sure you pause at the top to get the most out of the exercise before lowering the weight again to your chest.

Bench press

A bench press requires free weights as well as a bench, or anything you can use as an alternative if you don’t go to the gym. The bench press is a push movement and works your chest, arms and shoulders, making it a very effective exercise to include in your routine.

Lie backwards on a bench and ensure your feet are flat on the floor underneath your knees. Hold the dumbbells above your chest, and lower them by making a right angle with your arm. Push them back up to the start position slowly for added effect.

Romanian deadlift

The Romanian deadlift is typically done with a bar, and it’s a perfect exercise for working on your whole body, especially your posture. The deadlift is a pull exercise and works the glutes and hamstrings, but can also work your back to help strengthen your core. It can be a tricky one to master, but it’s worth it.

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and hold the barbell just outside of your thighs. Slightly bend your knees and bend forward from your hips to lower the bar just in front of your shins. Push your hips forward and bring the bar back up to the start position.

Bent over row

Lastly, the bent over row is also a pull exercise and can help you to work your back muscles. This move is easier with a barbell, and can improve your posture in the long run. Bend at the hips and pull the bar up towards your body, and then lower slowly. You should be able to do this without moving the rest of your body; if you struggle, the weight might be too heavy.


Free-weight exercises are one of the best ways to build strength and improve overall fitness. Free weights are versatile and offer a ton of freedom within your exercise routine.

Additionally, using free weights is more effective than your typical gym machine. Unlike machines, free-weight exercises challenge your entire body, especially the core.

Finally, free-weight exercises can be performed just about anywhere. For example, you can easily take your favorite pair of dumbbells to your backyard or even the local park.

So, go ahead, try out the five free-weight exercises in this guide and take your fit game to the next level!

About Theresa Duncan

Originally from Detroit, MI, Theresa has been offering health and fitness advice for the last 30 years while working as an engineer. She decided to turn her passion into a profession, and finds nothing more satisfying than helping others reach their health and fitness goals.

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