6 of the best free weight exercises for beginners

Posted by for Strong Women

Looking for weight-led exercises that have a lot of amazing benefits? Get started with these six free weight exercises to feel stronger. 

Weight-led exercising can feel like a pretty scary concept. The big metal plates and carefully balanced bars don’t look that inviting if you’ve never used them before. But you shouldn’t be intimidated: weight lifting is a fun, empowering and beneficial way to train. You simply need to learn the ropes first

If you’re a beginner, right now is a great time to start using free weights. The exercises require minimal equipment, meaning that you don’t need to worry about finding and cleaning a heap of different machines. Instead, you can set yourself up in the corner of the weights room and smash out your circuit. Alternatively, you can purchase some home workout kit and do these moves from the comfort of your living room. 

And, it’s important to remember that the benefits far outweigh your nerves. Strength training improves our cardiovascular health, increases our bone density (which is hugely important for women as our bones become more porous as we age) and it boosts our self-esteem. Then there’s the simple fact that weight training builds strength, which is a crucial part of having a healthy, happy body that will set us in good stead for many years to come. 

To ensure you do so safely, however, we’ve rounded up the best ways to ease yourself into it. And these free weight exercises are particularly great for women who want to start incorporating strength training into their exercise regimes…

Free weights
Free weight exercises for beginners

Goblet dumbbell squat

The squat is a classic strength training move, but it’s imperative that it’s done with proper form. So before you load up a heavy barbell, start with a goblet dumbbell squat. 

This move is a great way to add weight so you can begin to strengthen your glutes and quads, but is a slightly safer and easier first step. 

What you need: One dumbbell 


  • Stand up straight with your legs shoulder-width apart. 
  • Hold one end of the dumbbell in your hands, grasping the head in your palms. Hold it just underneath your chin with the elbows tucked in. 
  • Send your bum back as you bend your knees into a squat, lowering until your elbows touch your knees. It’s really important that your back remains straight throughout the movement, so don’t arch through the spine. 
  • Push through the heels to stand back up to the standing position.
  • Repeat this for 10 reps.

Dumbbell reverse lunge 

A lunge is another key lower body exercise that targets a range of leg muscles. The further back you extend your leg, the more it works the glutes and hamstrings, so once the form is nailed you can begin to play with placement and tempo to mix up your training. 

What you need: Two dumbbells 


  • Stand up straight with legs shoulder width apart, holding a dumbell in each hand. 
  • Lift one leg off the ground and place it behind you. As you do so, bend the front leg so that you are now in a low lunge position. 
  • Press through the front foot as you bring the back foot back to a standing position. 
  • Do this 10 times on each leg.

Overhead dumbbell extension

This move is great for the triceps for beginners and more advanced exercisers alike. It’s an intense isolation move, so make sure that you move through it slowly.  

What you need: One dumbbell 


  • Stand up straight with your legs shoulder-width apart and your tail bone tucked, meaning your abs are engaged and there’s no arch in the lower spine. 
  • Hold a dumbbell at one end, with your palms gripping the head. Extend it overhead so that your fingers are pointing behind. 
  • Bend at the elbows, keeping the arms tucked in towards your ears. When you reach the bottom, squeeze through the triceps to lift the weight back towards the ceiling above your head. 
  • Continue to do this in reps of 10. 

Bicep curl

These might be associated with bodybuilding, but training your biceps will pay off when you try out compound exercises like rows. 

Any upper body exercises that use weights can be done either standing or seated, but the latter tends to make moves harder as it isolates the muscles more. 

What you need: Two dumbbells


  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms by your sides and close to your body, palms facing outwards.
  • Squeeze through the upper arms as you curl the dumbbells up towards your shoulders. 
  • Be careful to keep the rest of your upper body still as you move through the movement. 
  • Continue to do this in reps of 10.

 Dumbbell shoulder press

Strong shoulders are important for both everyday posture and supporting you during exercise. Using a bench or chair for this shoulder exercise will ensure you have the correct back support.

What you need: Two dumbbells


  • Sitting on a bench or chair with back support, hold a dumbbell in each hand and lift them to shoulder height, so your elbows are bent and palms facing outwards.   
  • Take both dumbbells up and over your head so your arms are extended straight towards the sky, then lower down again to shoulder height. 
  • Make sure that your shoulders don’t rise up to your ears as you lift your arms and that they are squeezed back and down. 
  • Again, try to go for around 10 reps. 

Chest press

This move is a compound exercise, meaning it works multiple muscle groups in the body. Get ready to feel your chest, shoulders and triceps. 

What you need: Two dumbbells 


  • Lie on your back on a bench. If you’re at home then you can also lie on the floor, but you won’t be able to get the same depth in the exercise. 
  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms bent at right angles and palms facing forwards. The dumbbells should be at either side of your chest. 
  • Squeeze the chest and core to push the weights upwards so your hands come together over the middle of your chest, pointing towards the ceiling. 
  • Bring them back down to chest level in a slow controlled movement. 
  • Start with reps of five and build upwards from there.

Follow @StrongWomenUK on Instagram for the latest workouts, delicious recipes and motivation from your favourite fitness experts.

Image: Getty 

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Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a digital journalist for stylist.co.uk, who enjoys writing about London happenings, beautiful places, delicious morsels and generally spreading sparkle wherever she can.

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