Light Lifting

You can build muscles, slim down and get toned

Lifting free weights not only adds variety to your workout, it is extremely effective for increasing metabolism, improving posture and losing weight. And free weights offer several advantages over weight machines—they are less expensive, more versatile and more likely to mimic everyday tasks.

While weight machines typically allow motion along only one plane, free weights allow for more natural variations in motion. Also, unlike the machines, free weights improve balance and core strength by engaging stabilizing muscles—a concept that can be better understood by performing the exercises on the next page. Even though these exercises focus on the shoulder and back muscles, respectively, the surrounding muscles must engage to maintain a balanced and controlled body position as you lift the weights.

If you are interested in starting a free-weight program, begin by looking for a good home video. Start off light—two to four pounds should be plenty—and remember that position and precision of motion are more important than how many pounds you lift.

Reverse Flies

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, weight balanced evenly on each leg:

  1. From an upright position, bend at the waist approximately 45 degrees and bend knees slightly.
  2. Using a neutral grip (palms facing each other), grab a weight in each hand; hold the weights slightly in front of you.
  3. Keeping your back straight and elbows slightly bent, slowly raise your arms up and out to the sides while maintaining the same elbow and torso angle throughout the entire exercise.
  4. Raise your arms to a level just above your shoulders, then return to the start position, keeping the weights under control at all times.
  5. Choose weights that allow you to perform 3 sets of 10 to 15 repetitions.

Front Raises

Stand upright with feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent:

  1. With palms facing your thighs, hold a weight in each hand.
  2. Slowly lift one weight directly in front of you, keeping your elbow slightly bent and palm facing the floor. As you lift the weight, make sure you don’t lean backward or forward.
  3. Raise the weight until it is nearly parallel with the floor, then slowly lower it to the starting position.
  4. Repeat the sequence using the other arm.
  5. Perform 3 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions on each arm.

Jessica Smith has a master’s degree in bioengineering. She holds certifications from the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America and the American College of Sports Medicine.

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 19 Aug 2010

Last Modified: 03 Feb 2015