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Dumbbell Exercises for Female Beginners

For a total nerd looking to leave the couch behind and work up a sweat, knowing where to start can get a tad intimidating; we’ve all been there! You can take the beaten path and go for the gym… there, you might have trainers or others folks around to lend a hand when you need help.

However, if you’re considering doing this at home – which is pretty much the case these days anyway, then you have to figure it out all by yourself. You are the one to determine what to start with, and how. 

Things tend to get quite complicated here, more so when trying to get into the rhythm of things (probably how you ended up here) with different exercises.

Not to worry though… That’s what this post is all about.

Best Beginner Exercises for Women – Newbie Dumbbell Guide

Strap in! I will be listing some of the dumbbell exercises that you can do as a beginner, revealing the muscles you can target with each and diving right into how to do them. 

What You’ll Need

But first, for those of you that are looking at this guide yet do not own a set of dumbbells or have the slightest clue where you can get a decent and affordable pair, not to worry. There are several places that you can go to get a set, your local sporting goods store, or even just online at amazon. You’ll want to make sure that you get a set designed for us ladies because these will be made with a different and more comfortable material (typically neoprene) that helps prevent your hands from blistering up and looking all nasty.

Let’s get it on!

Dumbbell Swing 

Muscles worked: back, shoulders, hamstring, and quads

If you are focusing on working any or all of these muscles, then dumbbell swing is the workout for you. 

How to do it;

Stand with your feet apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Make sure the palms are facing inwards. Now, bend your knees just a bit and push the hips back (don’t round your back) to swing the dumbbells backwards between the legs. 

At the end of the move, contract your glutes while thrusting your hips forward as you swing the dumbbell to your chest. Then contract the core, quads, and glutes forcefully at the top of the swing. 

Keep in mind, you are not using your arms to move the weight, rather, the force is generated from the hip thrust.

With the full rep complete, you can let the dumbbell swing back until they are between your legs, then repeat for the number of reps you want.

Bulgarian split squat

Muscles worked: quads and glutes  

This exercise is quite straightforward but still engages these muscles very effectively. 

How to do it;

Holding a dumbbell on each hand, stand on a bench, facing away from it, and one leg resting on the bench. The other leg should be slightly bent but don’t let the knee extend past the toes.

From this position, lower your hind leg till it almost touches the floor. Then stand back up, switch legs such that the front leg goes back and the back one comes to the front. That’s one rep.

Repeat for the number of reps you want.

Lateral raise

Muscles worked: Anterior and posterior deltoids, upper trap, supraspinatus, and the serratus anterior.

The lateral raise is considered one of the most effective exercises for the lateral delts. You know, for bold and strong shoulders. It’s an easy one that beginners can pull off without a hassle, and you can do it pretty much anywhere. 

How to do it;

 Start at a standing position, with the spine straight, and your arms by the sides. With the dumbbells in each hand, bend your arms just slightly in front of you as you move them outwards. Bring them up till they are in level with the shoulders.

Lower the arms, slow and steady, back to the starting position. That’s one rep!

Repeat for the desired number of reps. 

Bicep curl

Muscles worked: Arms

Just like the other exercises I have listed above, this one is easy and thus a perfect choice for beginners who don’t have strong arms. But you’ll feel the burn after several reps, and your arms will start showing change after some time. 

How to do it;

Stand with one dumbbell in each hand, keeping the hands by your sides straight down, and the palms facing forward. Step out so that your feet are shoulder-width apart. 

Now, dig in with your heels and bend the knees while bracing your core. As you rotate the arm, bring one hand up to the shoulder until the palm is facing upwards. Then lower it slowly back to the starting position and repeat using the other arm. 

Repeat for the number of reps you want.

Tip* It’s recommended that you exhale as you bring the dumbbell up, and inhale as you lower it. 

Shoulder press

Muscles worked: Triceps, deltoids, pecs, and trapezius

The shoulder press is not just a dumbbell exercise for beginners; it’s also a favourite of many in the strength-building community, for good reasons. The thing is, this lift is considered one of the best workouts for building the upper body, more so the shoulders. 

 And yeah, it’s an easy one, too! 

How to do it;

Start by standing with the feet flat and with a dumbbell on each hand – the hand should be held slightly above the shoulders. 

Then all you need to do is lift your arms to stretch them out completely. Once they are fully stretched, lower them steadily to the starting position. 

That’s one rep!

Bent over row

Muscles worked: Rhomboids, latissimus dorsi, trapezius, and posterior deltoids.

Here’s another exercise perfect for women and that is not just best suited for beginners, it’s also one of the most favourites for many athletes. It might seem simple, but the bent-over row is a compound movement exercise and thus it engages several muscle groups. 

These include the lower back, glutes, biceps, and postural muscles as well. Just exercise safely by trying not to round your back. 

How to do it;

The first step is to get into a proper bent-over position. Standing with the feet at hip-width apart, push your bum backward until your upper body is parallel to the floor. 

Next, you need to bend the knees a bit as you extend the arms, with a dumbbell in each hand. Remember, the back remains flat, make sure not to round it.

Now, move your arms (with the dumbbell of course) towards your chest while keeping the elbows tucked close to your body side. 

Once you reach the top of the move, squeeze the shoulder blades together to let the shoulder muscles kick in. Lower the arm to the starting position and repeat the move with the other hand. 

Common Beginner Dumbbell Exercises Mistakes 

Now that you know some of the dumbbell exercises that you can try out, let’s get into several mistakes that you need to avoid. These are hand-picked most common mistakes that beginners make and could easily stall your progress.

Not completing your reps

I see quite often in the gym that most beginners fail to execute the full extent of the move to full range. It might not sound like a bad thing, and no, it’s not going to cause any injury or anything dreadful.

The only problem with this is that you are leaving a whole lot on the table, in that; you don’t reap the benefits of the exercise to the max. Straightening and folding your elbows completely gives your muscle the maximum potential benefit out of the move – and it’s easy to figure out if that’s the case; the exercise will feel easy.

The Fix

Rather than lifting more weight and going “half-rep” you should instead consider cutting back on the weight and only lifting what you can comfortably handle while still going full range. 

So, what weight should a female beginner use? I would say any weight between 0.5 and 5kg is good to go, pick the one that feels Ok for your strength level.

Using momentum during the lift

This is a tricky one to even realize you are doing something wrong since the body often compensates for the need for energy by initiating momentum to move the weight. 

The problem with using momentum is that you are not engaging the muscles you should be targeting with the move. Instead, you will end up under-working them and not getting the desired results. 

The Fix

If you have to rely on momentum to complete the motion, it shows you are using heavier weights than you should. Decrease the weight and start with low-weight dumbbells then work your way up. 

Going with gravity

Quite often, beginners execute the lift pretty well, and then let gravity take over on returning to the start position. This is to say you are only doing half the rep. And we both know what that means…you are not getting as much exercise as you should out of each move. 

The Fix

If you are to work your biceps, or any other target muscle group for that matter, make sure to fight gravity on your way down just as you do on the way up.

Holding dumbbells with bent wrists

Another mistake that’s common among beginners, and even one I see with seasoned fitness freaks, is holding dumbbells the wrong way. Even if you have the form and everything else nailed, this one could still go wrong. 

The Fix

Always make sure to hold the dumbbells with a flat wrist. Keep them straight and rigid when lifting, and if you feel uncomfortable, then consider decreasing the weight instead to prevent joint injury.

The Takeaway

That’s it girls (and boys!) With any of the dumbbell exercises listed here, you should be on the right track to losing weight, working, and toning your arms, upper, and even lower body. 

It might sound complicated at first, especially when you think of all the mistakes you have to watch out for. 

However, with a few days’ practice on form, safety, and the right choice of weights, you will piece it all together quite effortlessly. Lastly, you can remind yourself if you have to, but always maintain the right form and observe safety when working out.

Happy Lifting!

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