Weight and Resistance Training - having trouble holding weights

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05-14-2009, 04:54 PM
So I'm doing NRLW at the small gym at my office during lunchtime. There are no barbells, only dumbbells and one weight machine. The problem is that I've hit a point where the amount of weight I want to use for exercises like squats and lunges is enough that my hands/arms can't handle holding the dumbbells for as long as it takes me to complete a set.

Any advice? I'm running into this with the 20-lb and 25-lb dumbbells. I can hold a pair of them okay for about 6-8 reps, then my wrists and hands start hurting. I've tried holding them against my hips to give some more support but it's still hard to do. I imagine if I keep doing this for long enough my hands/wrists will get stronger, right?

05-14-2009, 04:57 PM
I was told by my trainer, that if you wrist gives out, they are to heavy.

05-14-2009, 05:06 PM
I know some people have used wrist straps but it seems that the auxiliary/supportive muscles need to be worked up to use the weight you are using. They do get stronger over time. I don't really have any advice though.

05-14-2009, 05:16 PM
Yeah, I guess the problem is that I don't want to slack off on my leg work just because my arms aren't as strong as my legs. It seems like cheating. I guess this is why these exercises usually call for barbells. :p

05-14-2009, 06:09 PM
I have some trouble with that too. You could try getting some gloves. I have never taken mine to the gym because I feel stupid but today when I was slipping with my 20's I figured I'm going to just have to do it and stop being embarrassed about it. That may or may not help you, I don't know. I feel like they are sliding out of my hands all the time no matter how much I wipe them off. It's a combo of other people's grossness and my weakness in the wrists.

05-14-2009, 06:34 PM
I am of the thought that if they're too heavy to hold, then they're too heavy period.
You don't want to injure your joints/ligaments/tendons.

How about increasing reps ???

05-14-2009, 06:37 PM
Weight lifting is the only time I feel blessed to have non-danity hands. :D I can manage 30lbs at least.

If you can hold them for 6-8 reps, why not use a different set/rep configuration for those exercises? I haven't read NWOL in a while, so refresh my memory, what does Lou have you doing for sets/reps?

05-14-2009, 09:37 PM
I ran into this when I hit the 35's and 40's and I have adjustables and felt I could not hoist them back into the stand correctly - you have to line them up right with the plates that are still remaining in the stand, etc. I do agree that at some point you have to look into a barbell. I didn't have much success with that tho either, I ran into not figuring out how to put that on my back, so am back to maxxed out db's at 35. I don't know that gloves would help bc for me, they're not slippping, it's just weight.

05-14-2009, 10:28 PM
I am a major fan of straps and I don't believe that if they are too heavy to hold, they are too heavy. My BACK is strong enough to row a 60 pound dumbbell, but I can't hold it. I don't care that my grip is inadequate for a 60 pounder, it's plenty strong to open jars, hold a hairdryer, hug my husband and children. But Why limit what my back and legs can do because of the SMALLEST muscles in my body?

Get some straps and ask someone how to strap in, There is an art to doing it correctly. If you don't have proper equipment and are making do with just dumbbells, there is no reason to let grip limit what your larger muscles can do.

Nuf said!


05-14-2009, 10:43 PM
Jessica, I have the same problem of not being able to sufficiently stress my leg muscles with the weights I can hold in my hands. I think it's pretty common! It's a shame you don't have access to a barbell because that's my preferred solution. Plus I find it easier to balance for squats and lunges with a BB on my back. DBs always felt off-balance to me.

Anyway, if there's no BB available, I've seen people balance DBs on their shoulders for leg exercises. I've never tried it but you might want to play around (carefully!) to see if that position might help.

I'll also second straps as a good option. And I wear my cute purple gloves for all my weight exercises. :)

05-15-2009, 01:18 AM

I do prefer to place the dumb bells on my shoulders when doing squats, especially split squats. I feel much more stable with the weight balanced over the top of my shoulders than suspended lower at my sides. For me, I have a tendency to lean in forward from the dumb bells if they are held at my sides. I've also seen other people have their form compromised when they were held at their sides.

Grab a spotter and try it up on your shoulders. Oh, and as an added bonus, it also works your upper back. Keep those shoulders pulled back and down, chest wide and square, and lower yourself down into the perfect squat :cool:

05-15-2009, 09:53 AM
Another option other than the advice already given are goblet squats. The way the dumbell is held should allow you to go heavier than 2x the dumbells at the side. Also, since the load is carried in front, it has the added benefit of forcing you to keep the chest up throughout the movement or the weight will pull you over and/or you will dump the weight.


05-15-2009, 10:17 AM
Thanks everyone! This is some great advice.

Dixie, right now I'm doing two sets of 12 reps according to the NRLW workout plan. In two weeks I'll be doing three sets of 10 reps, then 3 sets of 8 reps, with the idea that I'll be increasing the weight each time I lower the reps.

I was thinking about getting gloves in any case because the rough part of the dumbbells is giving me a nasty blister on my palm, so maybe the straps would help too. Maybe I'll try the dumbbells on my shoulders too, but I'm not sure if I can get them up there. DH was saying that the problem with a barbell is that even if I got a barbell, I would still need a squat rack because I wouldn't be able to lift it up to my shoulders. Darn my weak arms! It's kind of embarrassing that I can use two 25lb dumbbells for squats, but for shoulder press I have to use 8lb dumbbells and I can barely do 12 reps. :o

Depalma, that might be a good option too, I'll definitely try it out!

05-15-2009, 02:01 PM
Oh, but shoulder muscles are really small. It takes a long long time to go higher (IMHO). I can just do all my reps with 8 lbs as well, occasionally one set with 10s. But your arms should get stronger and you'd be able to lift the barbell.

I've done squats with the dbs on my shoulders and also on my thighs - both work for me better than just holding them straight down.

05-15-2009, 03:04 PM
Here's a video with some suggestions to help increase the strength in your wrists and forearms:

05-15-2009, 03:54 PM
I had the same problem with DB exercises for legs. A barbell and squat rack would be nice, or if you can clean the DBs up to your shoulders, I found that easier and just did a DB front squat for that. For step-ups, you could just do what you can, take a break, then go back and finish the set, even if you have to do it 3-4 reps at a time. Take a nail file to any calluses after a shower, to help keep them smoothed down, so they don't rip or blister as easily. Chalk really helps, if it's allowed at your gym, since it will keep your hands dry. If you're going to go heavy with DBs, though, I'd go on and invest in straps for now. Try to work without them when you can, so your grip gets stronger and you toughen your hands up so it's not so painful, but when it's time to work legs heavy, I'd choose straps over skimping on the weights, personally. I never had any luck with gloves, but I have small hands, so the padding in the palm just made it impossible for me to wrap my finger around the bar, which gave me even less grip strength. Your grip will get stronger if you just keep lifting heavy, but it takes time. Another option is to do your heavy DBs till your grip fails, then back the weight down to 20s or 15s and do a higher rep set immediately after. I wouldn't do that every time, but it's another option for fatigueing those beefy leg muscles. Also, you can do stuff like one DB straight up overhead on your lunges, walking lunges, single leg squats to a box or bench, raise the step for your step-ups, or something like that. Good luck to you, and nice work on the weights!