Man in a warehouse lifting a barbell

Approaching the weights section at the gym can be a little daunting to say the least. There are so many different types of weights so it can be tricky to know where to begin.

If you’re just starting out, the resistance machines are great for helping you build up strength as well as guide your form as you target different muscle groups. However, as you progress, you may find free-weights more beneficial as they allow you to have more control over your exercises. Instead of isolating certain muscles, free-weights work your stabilising muscles at the same time giving you a more balanced, overall workout.

 

What are the different types of free-weights?

Dumbbells

Dumbbell Weight Bars by Mirafit with spring collars

Dumbbells have a shorter bar so you can hold one in each hand and start at around 0.5kg. By having different weights in each hand, dumbbells allow for a greater range of movement during exercise – using barbells, which are longer, can mean your chest and shoulders can get in the way, restricting your press exercises.

Many of us have one side that is stronger than the other so by using independent weights, you strengthen each side equally rather than allowing one side to carry the other.

You can get dumbbells in set sizes or you can just get the bars and add different weight plates as you go.

Use dumbbells for:

  • Bicep curl
  • Bench press
  • Shoulder press
  • Lateral raise
  • Lying fly
  • Upright row
  • Tricep kickback
  • Stationary lunge

 

Barbells

Man lifting curl barbell by Mirafit

Barbells start at around 4ft and increase to around 7ft. They are designed to be raised, lifted or rested during exercises and challenge your muscles, joints and balance all at once.

Barbells allow for compound movements which are exercises that work more than one muscle group at the same time - for example, the back squat, where you rest the barbell across the top of your back and squat down, working your quads, hamstrings, hips and glutes all in one exercise.

Although you can use them to strengthen your upper body – for example your chest and back - they are mainly used to add weight to your lower body exercises.

Barbell bars are usually weighted on their own – before you have added any weight plates – so look out for this when calculating your weight load.

Use barbells for:

  • Back squat
  • Bench press
  • Barbell row
  • Dead lift
  • Overhead press
  • Lunge

 

Kettlebells and slam balls

Man swinging a Mirafit kettlebell

Kettlebells and slam balls exercises are designed to give you more explosive power. Movements are varied and are quite often short and sharp rather than slow and controlled.

Kettlebells have thicker handles than dumbbells allowing for increased grip. Kettlebell exercises also force you to use your stabiliser muscles giving you a more balanced workout. They can also help you to burn fat at the same time.

Slam balls are designed to be thrown at the ground with as much force as you can muster and develop your explosive strength. Simply put, this is your ability to exert a maximal amount of force in the shortest possible time interval.

 

Mirafit slam ball set

Use slam balls for:

  • Lunge with overhead press, Lunge with twist, Squat press throw, Rock and roll up, Single leg squat, Overhead throw, Chest pass and Russian twists.

 

Mirafit Kettle Bells set

Use Kettlebells for:

  • Swings, Figure-8, Row, Lunge, Sumo squat, Goblet squat, Russian twist, Single-arm snatch and Push ups.