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Far From Dumb

More new equipment, more new opportunities
Further upgrades to your Gym Pod equipment have come in the form of dumbbell sets. Simple, versatile and essential, this is probably the most useful piece of kit in any fitness space.

In terms of building muscle, the dumbbell is symmetry’s best friend. All body builders look in the mirror. Yes they look for proportion (upper body versus lower body development for example), but the main reason is left-side versus right-side. If we are right side dominant, we will automatically will see more muscle development on our right side. This is most easily seen in the arms (biceps, triceps and forearms) but can also be evident in the shoulders and even chest. Over development of one side can lead to reliance on the favoured wing and could lead to compensatory injuries.

Do some sets on the most impressive machine in your space and the chances are it doesn’t do much to promote symmetry. If both hands are pushing or pulling on a machine, both sides are indeed working together to move the weight, but it’s hard not to let the dominant side take the lion’s share of the heavy lifting.

With free weights and specifically dumbbells, that can’t happen. Lying on your back with 10 kilos in each hand and pushing out some bench presses means you’re working your left-side just as much as your right side. In fact, because you’re dominant side is more used to taking the brunt of the body’s workload, you’re actually asking more of your less dominant side, despite carrying the same weight. This ensures that without even thinking about it you’re now redressing the balance and working effectively towards symmetry. 

It would be easy to knock out an article on the 10 best dumbbell exercises, but pinning your focus to only 10 would be unnecessarily restricting your field of vision. Arm curls for the biceps, kickbacks for the triceps, shoulder presses, bench presses, bench flies, weight-assisted squats, calf raises and lunges, bent-over rows, single arm kettle swings and lateral raises name only a few of the numerous exercises you can employ with perhaps infinite variations on each theme. A quick Google search offered many articles on the 10 best dumbbell exercises, but that was just the tip of the iceberg, with one article offering the best 49!

Not being quite wealthy enough to have my own gym, I’ve always at least had a set of dumbbells on hand and that way if I haven’t been able to get to the gym for one reason or another, at least I’ve still been able to get plenty of good strength work done.

Following basic principles of heavier weight and fewer reps to build muscle; lighter weight and more reps help to build lean muscle. The possibilities are truly endless but what many people overlook is the power of dumbbells in going ultra-light when undertaking a high intensity interval training (HIIT) session for aerobic benefit.

A combination of weight training, say a bench press, with weight-assisted aerobic exercises like kettle swings, lunges and some bear crawls will get your heart racing and lungs pumping. But be sure to err on the side of a very light weight at first, far less than you would use for weight training; you can always build on this later. 

If you haven’t used dumbbells before, pick up a pair whose weight you can comfortably manage and start experimenting with various movements. Feel which parts of your body they’re making you work and experiment with heavier weights as you go along. The Gym Pod offers workouts in their smart mirror, the PTX, which can guide you along if you need some inspiration!
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