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Dumbbells – Five Dumbbell Lifting Mistakes Slowing Your Progress

We’re now into the New Year, the festive period is nothing more than haze of mince pies, turkey, party food, and far too much booze. It was fun whilst it lasted, but now it’s time for us to hit the gym and get serious about our fitness goals. Whether you’re looking to transform your physique for the summer, or simply burn off the extra weight you accumulated over the holidays, it’s vital that you hit the gym as soon as you can and start busting your behind like never before. Whilst gyms are packed full of expensive machines and equipment, some of the simplest, and most popular examples of gym equipment currently available have been used for centuries. We are of course talking about dumbbells.

A gym without dumbbells would be like a football pitch without grass. Dumbbells are synonymous with gyms and working out and if used correctly they can help build muscle, burn fat, increase strength, and a whole lot more besides. If used wrong however, you will not only find that your progress has stalled, but you will also find that you could potentially injure yourself. Here’s a look at five dumbbell listing mistakes slowing your progress.

Not warming up

This isn’t just a mistake associated with dumbbells, it’s a mistake associated with exercise of any kind. Before you work out, you should always, always, set aside five – ten minutes to stretch and warm up. Stretching and warming up before exercise will significantly reduce the likelihood of you suffering from an injury. Not only that, it will also help improve your athletic performance and help you get more from your training.

Warming up and stretching will help improve muscle fibre elasticity, it will increase your core body temperature and it will help improve flexibility and mobility. Before you pick a single weight up, make sure you take the time to stretch and warm up.

Flaring your elbows

Obviously this doesn’t apply to all exercises, but a lot of exercises performed using dumbbells will require your elbows to be stationary and as close to your body as possible. If you’re performing overhead dumbbell triceps extensions for example, you will be tempted to flare your elbows outwards as this will be more comfortable, and it will help make the exercise easier.

The exercise isn’t supposed to be easy however, it’s supposed to be physically demanding and taxing on the triceps. When performing triceps extensions, or any other exercise requiring the elbows to be firmly tucked in at your side, that is exactly where the elbows need to be. If you can’t perform the exercise without flaring your elbows, the weight is too heavy so you need to make it lighter until you can execute the movement whilst keeping your elbows stationary.

Overhead pressing with an arched back

If you want to work on your overhead pressing strength and technique, using a set of dumbbells instead of a barbell is a fantastic way of doing exactly that. Overhead pressing targets the deltoids and a little of the traps, and it is one of the most functional and effective compound exercises currently in existence. The problem with dumbbell overhead presses however, is the fact that too many people out there tend to arch their backs when performing the exercise.

When you overhead press with dumbbells your back should be straight, your core should be engaged, and your hips should be tucked firmly underneath your torso. Arching your back not only eases the burden on the deltoids, it also puts a lot of strain on your lower back, putting you at risk of injury.

Swinging the weights

We’ve all seen the funny ‘gym fail’ videos online of people attempting to lift ridiculously heavy dumbbells and then swinging the weight with such momentum and force that they very nearly lose their balance. Whether you’re dumbbell curling, bent over rowing, or doing any other movement with said dumbbells, the thing to remember is that you should always keep the weights firmly in control at all times.

A lot of people choose weights to perform various exercises that are far too heavy, and as a result they swing the weights to gain momentum. Needless to say, this is pointless because if you’re swinging the dumbbells you aren’t isolating your target muscle group anyway. Not only that, but again, you run the risk of injuring yourself. Each rep you perform should be slow, methodical, and firmly controlled.

Lowering the weight half way down when bicep curling

Arguably the most famous and popular dumbbell exercise in the history of dumbbells is the humble bicep curl. A lot of people when working their biceps however, will only lower the weight half way down their torsos. Now, if you’re performing dumbbell 21s, one third of the exercise does indeed require you to only lower the weight half way down your torso.

If you’re just doing regular bicep curls however, the weight should be lowered all of the way down. Rather than stopping at your mid-section, you should instead lower the weight until your palms are level with your thighs. This will recruit more muscle fibres when you work the biceps, which will result in greater levels of muscle hypertrophy.

You don’t put your dumbbells back on the rack!

This is perhaps one of the most frustrating mistakes that a gym-goer could ever make, yet it is sadly all too common. After you finish performing an exercise with your dumbbells, they should always go back onto the rack where you got them from. Don’t just leave them on the floor for somebody else to pick up, or potentially trip over.

No, when you’re finished, always re-rack your weights. Not only that, but you should also make sure you re-rack them in the correct order. It’s no good putting a set of 30kg dumbbells next to a set of 8kg dumbbells, just because there was room. The 30s need to go where they need to be, and the same of course applies to all other weights as well.