A Complete Guide to Getting Started With Free Weights (Yes, There's a Workout!)

Incorporating free weights into your workout routine has a lot of benefits, from improving your stability to building muscle and increasing bone density. But you won't pick up any of these perks if you don't use free weights properly and safely. Here, experts share how to get started with your own weightlifting routine, so you can meet whatever goals you've set for yourself.

What to Do Before You Start Lifting Weights

"Before you start using free weights, make sure you've mastered a few bodyweight exercises," Meghan Kennihan, an NASM-certified personal trainer based in Western Springs, IL, told POPSUGAR. Meghan recommended working on the following moves, making sure you can do three sets of eight to 10 reps each before moving on to free weight exercises:

How to Choose the Right Weight For You

Start with something light while you work to perfect your form, Justin Seedman an ACE-certified personal trainer and owner of JustinFit told POPSUGAR. Once you've got the form down, you can slowly work your way up to heavier weights. "Find a weight that you can successfully perform 10 to 12 repetitions with. The last one to two repetitions of the set should be challenging," Justin said. "If you can complete more than 10 to 12 repetitions with proper form, then it's time to increase the weight."

A Beginner's Plan For Using Free Weights

Once you've built a foundation for strength training and found a set of dumbbells that feel challenging but manageable, you're ready to crank out some reps. Meghan suggested starting with this sample plan, which builds off the bodyweight exercises you used to get to this point. "Start with three sets of five reps two to three times a week, continuing with that weight until you can do three sets of 10 reps," Meghan said. Once you can do that with easy effort, it's time to increase your weight.

As you get stronger and more comfortable with free weights, Meghan recommended switching up your exercises with advanced moves, like a squat press or renegade row. If you're using something heavier than dumbbells (like a barbell with weighted plates), always have a spotter when lifting.