Just a quick note. I’ve been lifting weights on and off for a few years, but I’ve never really had a group of friends who lifted at or near my level, so I’ve more or less had to discover my own routines by trial and error.
I’m a large dude in every dimension (185cm tall, 54″ chest, 48+” waist) and I have the “short” muscles often associated with weight lifters, but I’m more comfortable with swimming, walking, and other light-aerobic lean-body activities than bulked-up muscularization. Having said that, I have found some lifts I enjoy. I like dumbbells rather than barbells primarily because they can be used more safely without a partner or specialized equipment. Also, my strength profile is probably pretty eccentric. What I’m saying is this: some of these might be better substituted for more mainstream lifts if you have the gear, friends, and/or training to do so.
I tend to focus on total coverage with my upper body workouts. Most of these work the muscles above the abdomen.
- Dumbbell flyes (flys? flies?) – lie on your back, put weights in your hands, straighten your arms out to each side, and rotate your shoulders until the weights are directly above your shoulders.Even without a bench, these work out the pecs and shoulders pretty nicely. I use relatively low weight for these (currently back down to 10lbs per hand after a nearly year-long break)
- Dumbbell presses – basically a bench press with dumbbells instead of a barbell. Similar to flies, but more targeted.These are harder to do well without a bench. I tend to use slightly more weight (20 pounds per hand at the moment) for these, since they don’t require as much torque.
- Front and side dumbbell raises – like flyes, but you’re standing up Your arm rotates from straight down to either directly in front of your shoulder or straight out to the side.These work very small groups of muscles, so I find small weights (10 lbs) best
- Standing tricep extensions – with a weight in your hand, straighten your arm up from your shoulder. Bend your arm at the elbow as far as you can while holding your upper arm upright. Use your tricep to drive the weight back up until your arm is back in the fully upright position.I find bent-over extensions very difficult, so these are a very nice way to work out my triceps without that feeling so frustrated. Part of the reason for that is probably my poor tricep development, hence I only lift 10s for this.
- Squats – take a weight in each hand. Keeping your back straight and your feet flat on the floor with weight evenly distributed, bend your legs as far as you can. Once at the “bottom”, keeping back and feet the same, drive your hips forward while pushing your body up.Squats are apparently the most important core workout move you can do. They work out a huge percentage of your body and build overall muscle coordination and strength. They’re also a good test of how well your whole body works as a unit.
There are a lot of variations on the squat, but I like simple hanging-dumbbell squats: Take a dumbbell in each hand, and with arms hanging down perform a full squat movement. This seems like a good beginner squat because it has minimal risk of injury and requires essentially no setup. It doesn’t have quite the full benefit of squats in terms of strengthening core stabilization muscles, but it still loads basically all of the same bones and muscles, so it gets you a lot of the way there.
I load a fair amount of weight for squats (40-75 pounds per hand), but I’m careful of my wrists, because it’s easy to get overambitious. Barbell squats would be my long term goal, as they allow you to lift a lot heavier, but you really need a rack.
- Deadlifts – probably my favourite lift. Starting with weights on the floor, keeping your back straight and your feet flat, bend at the waist (and knees, if necessary) until you have your hands on your weights. Drive your hips forward and lift with your legs. Keep your back straight!I love deadlifts because they really make me feel powerful. It takes a fair amount of strength just to move my body around at its present size, and this move, I think, really takes advantage of that fact. I like to lift very heavy with deadlifts, loading 50-80 pounds per hand.
Again, super easy to get in over your head with this and hurt your wrists, so it’s important to start slow.
- Crunches – Lie on your back and try to sit up. When your lower back leaves the mat, slowly reverse the movement.I would rather do just about anything else in the world rather than do a set of crunches, but there really aren’t a lot of good options when it comes to working out the front abdominals.
I don’t have the ab strength to do these with a load, so I just do as many as I can. I tend to do these rather than full situps for a bunch of reasons, but the big one is just that they are more comfortable and can be done at any weight and fitness level.
- Reverse crunches – lie on your back and, keeping your legs straight, lift your legs as high as you can, stopping if they reach an upright position. Reverse the movement at the top of your range, slowly lowering your legs back to the mat.This is another exercise I don’t love, but these target the lower abdominal muscles and are at least a little less punishing than crunches for me.
- Planks – keeping your body as close to parallel to the floor as possible, put your weight on your elbows and toes, elevate, and hold.This is the marathon of body weight workouts, more a mental exercise than a physical one. Crossing the one minute mark can be pretty rewarding.
These are my baseline exercises. I do a bunch of other stuff, and I keep meaning to get back into the pool on a regular basis, but these, when I’m actually working out regularly, form the foundation for everything else. I’d love to hear what others are doing and enjoying.