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How to Select the Weight of a Dumbbell Set

By Darla Ferrara

Dumbbell sets can be useful tools when looking to build muscle mass, improve endurance and increase overall strength. Building muscle mass does more than just make you look terrific. Enhanced musculature increases metabolism to enable you to burn calories more effectively. If you want to lose weight, improving your muscle strength with free weight training will help. Dumbbells come in various composite materials, from chrome to cement. Selecting the wrong dumbbell set can work against you. Take your time looking at the options and developing a plan that includes a dumbbell set with the right weight loads.

  1. Write out a plan for your free weight exercise routine. Establish the repetitions and number of sets to complete with each exercise. If you are a beginner, assume one or two sets until you increase muscle strength. For example, bicep curls work the upper body and specifically the bicep muscle. The beginning routine may call for 12 repetitions of the bicep curl in one set. As you advance, add another set.

  2. Look for dumbbell sets that have a progressive range. For example, the smallest dumbbell might be 2 lb. and the largest 10 lb. with a number of weights in between. Free weight training promotes advancement as the muscles grow stronger. You may start working with a 2 lb. weight and eventually move up to 4 lb. Select a set that advances with you.

  3. Pick up a dumbbell in the group. The grip must feel comfortable in your hand. A grip that is too large for your hand will increase the level of fatigue and making lifting less effective. If the muscles in your hand are struggling with the grip size, your focus is thrown and you get less from the exercise.

  4. Test the smallest dumbbell in the set. Do one set of an exercise with a small weight load. For instance, you might pick up the smallest weight in the group and do one set of triceps extensions. The proper weight will allow you to complete the right number of repetitions in good form without tiring. If the exercise is too difficult, the weight is too large. If the exercise is too easy, the weight is too small.

  5. Repeat the test with a mid-range exercise and weight load. For example, perform a set of bicep curls with a 5-lb. weight.

  6. Select your set based on the comfort of the grip and the progression of the weights. Consider whether this is a set that you can grow with as you become stronger.

  7. Tip

    Focus your routines to work large muscle groups, such as the core, and one specific group, such as the arms. The next workout might work large muscle groups and the legs.

    As you grow stronger, add additional sets to your routine with the same weight load. Do not increase the weight load until you can complete at least three or four sets. If you fail to achieve muscle fatigue after multiple sets, add to the weight load.


    Use proper form when picking up and putting down dumbbells to reduce your risk of injury.

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