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 often feel like a pretty scary concept for those of us who have never tried it before. Once upon a time, it was a type of workout avoided by female fitness enthusiasts because of the common, detrimental, misconception that the only outcome of using weights is to become ‘bulky’ or ‘manly’. Luckily, we’re tearing that idea down, and more and more women are taking on the weights room.

If you’re a beginner, right now is a great time to start using free weights. The exercises require minimal equipment they are perfect to do at home, and you can get familiar with these moves before gyms open again and you’re ready to lift heavier.

And it’s also important to start now so you can reap the benefits of weight lifting as soon as possible: it raises your metabolic rate, which means the effect of your workout will last much longer after you’ve finished training, and is said to improve our cardiovascular health, too. It can also increase your bone density (something which is more important for women than for men, as we tend to lose bone density as we become older and go through the menopause).

There’s also 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.

And if all that doesn’t sound good enough, it’s widely believed by many experts to be an enormous self-esteem booster, too. 

As we’ve mentioned many times before, weight training is an easy and effective way to build up fitness levels and boost strength. So, if you’ve previously been a cardio-only exerciser, this might be the ideal way to shake up your at-home training regime.

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…

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Goblet dumbbell squat

While many of the videos you might see on Instagram of fitness influencers is them squatting with a heavy barbell, this can be a bit intimidating.

The goblet dumbbell squat is great because it’s super effective for strengthening your glutes but just requires a single dumbbell, so it’s not a huge commitment straight away.

What you need: One dumbbell 


  • Stand up straight with your legs shoulder width apart. 
  • Grasp one end of the dumbbell in your hands, holding it to your heart while the other weighted side hangs downwards. 
  • Bend down into a single squat, until your elbows touch your knees, keeping your back straight and sticking your bum outwards.
  • Rise back up into a standing position.
  • Repeat this for 10 reps.

Dumbbell reverse lunge 

This one is killer for working a range of leg muscles. You will feel that the further back you take your leg the more it works the glutes and hamstrings, so you can make this harder for yourself as time goes on.

What you need: Two dumbbells 


  • Stand up straight with legs shoulder width apart holding a dumbell in each hand. 
  • Take one leg back to get into the lunge position (essentially kneeling in reverse) and then revert back to standing.
  • Do this 10 times on each leg.

Overhead dumbbell extension

This move will work the triceps. It can be difficult but stick with it.

What you need: One dumbbell 


  • Stand up straight with your legs shoulder width apart.
  • Grab a dumbbell and hold it behind your head, with both hands gripping onto the top part of the weight, elbows facing the ceiling. 
  • Lift the weight upwards to ceiling above your head, and the lower back down again behind your back.
  • Continue to do this in reps of 10. 

Bicep curl

You can do this move standing or seated, but any upper body weights workout done when seated isolates the muscles and works them harder. So, when you start feeling a little more confident, try sitting down on a hard, flat surface while you do it. 

What you need: Two dumbbells


  • Stand with your feet hip width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand with your elbows bent and close to your body, and your palms facing upward.
  • Without moving your upper arms, lower the dumbbells down towards your thighs, and then up towards your shoulders. 
  • Be careful that you’re not using the rest of your body to support the movement and just your bicep  muscles, continue to do this in reps of 10.

 Dumbell shoulder press

Using a bench or chair for this shoulder exercise will ensure you have the correct back support.

What you need: Two dumbbells


  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand and sit on a press bench that has back support. 
  • Place the dumbbells on top of your thighs. 
  • Raise the dumbbells to shoulder height in unison, then upwards above your head and back down to shoulder height. Start slow with this one, trying reps of three first. 

Chest press

This move is a compound exercise, meaning it will work more than one muscle. Get ready to feel your chest, shoulders and triceps. 

What you need: Two dumbbells 


  • Lie with your back on a hard surface, holding a dumbbell in each hand. 
  • Hold the weights in the air at the same time, with both elbows bent into right angles.
  • Lift the weights upwards, stretching your arms out straight.
  • Bring them back down to chest level in a slow controlled movement. 
  • Start with reps of five and built 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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