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Newbie with dumbbells: how often/how many reps?

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Old 02-25-2012, 10:58 PM   #1
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Question Newbie with dumbbells: how often/how many reps?

Okay, so tomorrow I officially start weight training . . . don't laugh all of you that are bench pressing 50 lbs. I bought me some 5 lb. dumbbells at Wal-Mart and am ready to roll. Really I'm quite proud of myself--the beginning of this year, I was doing zero exercise and now I'm up to 5 days a week power walking. I'm trying to ease myself into exercising this time, so hopefully it will become a lifelong habit instead of just a resolution I keep for a week.

So for now, I'm just going to focus on upper body weight training (plus my cardio). I have a list of basic exercises: curls, side raises, etc. My question is: how often do I do them? From what I hear, a set is usually 10-15 times (correct me if I'm wrong) and one should have a day between weight training--so I'm going to do it three days per week.

Also, how many sets should I build up to? 3 sets (so 30 to 45 reps)? How long do I wait between sets (assuming my arms haven't fallen off).

Thanks for any advice! Next month I'm going to start on my core--which I'm dreading. :P
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Old 02-25-2012, 11:26 PM   #2
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My trainer has me do 3 sets, 10 reps each. That's what he's always had me do. Sometimes I think we add a 4th but honestly I'm not sure, I count the reps until I get a break.

And don't worry about starting off at 5 pounds, I did the same. My first set was/is the warm up. I started with 5 and then the second I'd move up to 8. At first, I couldn't do all 10 without messing up my form from exhaustion so I'd drop back down to 5 to finish the set. The third set was the same - start at 8, go until I'm not holding my form properly, then switch to 5.

Now I'm up to starting with 8, moving to 10, and even trying 15. =)

Three days a week with rest in between each day sounds good.
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Old 02-26-2012, 12:39 AM   #3
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I started out with 5lbs too. Don't get discouraged Now I use 15s and I can also lift ~60% of my body weight (and deadlift more than that)...still working on more of course!

There are many different ways to train: you can count your sets (like you mentioned, and three sets of 10-15 is good) or you can train to failure, where you keep going until you can't or where you can't hold your form any more.

See what you can do first. You might be surprised at how much you can lift or what you need to work on.

Like, Nadya I would keep the "old" weights around when moving up to a higher weight until I felt comfortable using them. For example I kept my 10s around when moving up to 12s in case I got too fatigued to finish the set with 12s. Same thing when I was moving up to 15s.

When you feel a bit more comfortable lifting weights, you might want to consider lifting much heavier and doing some serious weight training. Lifting HEAVY does wonders for your body.
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Old 02-26-2012, 02:53 AM   #4
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My advice would be to let the dumbbells gather dust for a few months while you use compound bodyweight exercises to develop a decent foundation.

No idea who said this but it's good advice
"if you can't do 10 pull-ups you have no business doing curls"

the point of it is that isolated movements like curls offer benefits to single muscles whereas compound movements like pull ups offer benefits to whole groups.

Rest: One day isn't enough IMO, not if you're trying your hardest (at least last set to failure).
Simple rule of thumb, If you can't do as many reps as previously, your muscles have not recovered, let alone improved.
Rest between sets: 3 minutes is optimum.
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Old 02-26-2012, 10:28 AM   #5
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I would echo the poster who said 3 sets at 10 reps. Rest for maybe 60 seconds between exercises too. Also, don't compare yourself to others, we all started somewhere. Three days a week sounds good with a day of rest in between. Muscles grow while you're not in the gym. You need adequate recovery to make progress. FWIW, I'm bench-pressing 40 lbs. and it's taken me six months to get there. Just do your best and you'll make progress. You're only in competition with you. That's awesome that you're starting with the weights! Good luck.
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Old 02-27-2012, 12:35 AM   #6
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Now i'm solo, but i started with a trainer; he made me do 15-18 reps 3 sets with very short rest in every movement. We used a lot of dumbells movements, so you can be fine with them. The only thing is that 5 pounds would be too much for some exercises and not enough in some, i would advise to get a set of dumbells that you can change the weights and actually work with the proper amount of weight.

Also, don't forget to train the lower body as it is a big muscle that will help you lose fat faster.

3x/week is ideal to train, try to make a fullbody routine everyday.
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Old 02-27-2012, 12:52 AM   #7
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Quote:
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The only thing is that 5 pounds would be too much for some exercises and not enough in some, i would advise to get a set of dumbells that you can change the weights and actually work with the proper amount of weight.
Good advice! I can lift more when I'm doing front and lateral raises but anything that has me lifting weight up over my head? Well...the last time I tried using the same weight for both exercises there was a moment when I seriously thought those weights were coming down on my head...
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Old 03-01-2012, 09:06 PM   #8
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Thanks for all the suggestions! Today was my second day of lifting (I actually started on Tuesday, rested Wednesday & lifted again today). I'm doing 3 sets of 10 w/ a minute rest in between sets--so not much at all, but I'm just starting. I'm losing form with those last few reps in the last set with each exercise, so I think I have the right weight--once I get built up to 3x15 reps with good form, I'll buy some more weights.

The exercises I'm doing are compound exercises--most of them involve curls, lateral extensions and overhead raises all in the same rep. Once I'm comfortable with them, I'll add push ups (which I'm dreading). I'm trying to do stuff that I can do without a gym and I don't have a pull up bar. Plus I'm nearly a hundred pounds overweight and I'm afraid I might injure myself if I started doing pull ups this heavy.

I'm afraid I won't see any results for a while--at least until some of this fat is off. I'm looking forward to having buff arms!
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Old 03-01-2012, 11:18 PM   #9
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I'm afraid I won't see any results for a while--at least until some of this fat is off. I'm looking forward to having buff arms!
One of the advantages to being obese is that we have more muscle mass (especially in our legs). If you weight train as you lose weight you're going to keep most of that and wind up a bit more compact than someone else at the same weight.

So, when the fat melts off you will look AWESOME.

I got awesome arms from lifting heavy. I've always been self conscious of them and I can say that this is the first time in my life I wish it were summer so I could wear tank tops.

You may see results sooner than you think though. I started lifting when I was around 200lbs or so. I think lifting helped me drop a size or drop 10lbs (I'm not sure, I didn't weigh myself) and I went from a 40C bra size to a 40D bra size. I got more of an hourglass shape as well. I was still obese, but lifting changed my body. I'm sure if I watched the amount of food I ate I would have seen even better results.
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Old 03-02-2012, 10:56 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by sontaikle View Post
One of the advantages to being obese is that we have more muscle mass (especially in our legs). If you weight train as you lose weight you're going to keep most of that and wind up a bit more compact than someone else at the same weight.

So, when the fat melts off you will look AWESOME.

I got awesome arms from lifting heavy.
I know--I'm excited! I don't really have that much fat on my legs in portion to muscle, but my arms are much more flabby--so I'm hoping this will help.

So what would you consider to be heavy? Can I lift heavy with just dumbbells or should I go the gym and use a machine or bench press? I don't want to injure myself.

I know it's silly, but I'm pretty self-conscious and am avoiding the gym for as long as possible--I'll do it eventually, but not until I've worked for a while on my own. Plus I'd much rather do my cardio outside than on a treadmill.
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Old 03-02-2012, 11:03 AM   #11
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Anything that you struggle with to do the last 2-3 times of each rep is considered heavy. You should be having to give it your all to finish. If you can do the reps with little/no problem, then you need to increase the weight.
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Old 03-02-2012, 12:25 PM   #12
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I know--I'm excited! I don't really have that much fat on my legs in portion to muscle, but my arms are much more flabby--so I'm hoping this will help.

So what would you consider to be heavy? Can I lift heavy with just dumbbells or should I go the gym and use a machine or bench press? I don't want to injure myself.

I know it's silly, but I'm pretty self-conscious and am avoiding the gym for as long as possible--I'll do it eventually, but not until I've worked for a while on my own. Plus I'd much rather do my cardio outside than on a treadmill.
candeka said it right--2-3 reps is heavy weight. That will be a different amount for both of us. Also, avoid the weight machines...dumbbells help you work your entire body.

I can lift about 60% of my body weight right now (working on 75%) but it took me a long time to get here. I remember when I was struggling to lift 5lb weights and lift 20lbs and could barely make it through a weight training class. I kept at it and here I am

Weight training takes a long time, but the results are worth it!!

I don't blame you with the cardio. I love running outside, but this week was rotten so I ran on the treadmill at the gym..ick
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Old 03-03-2012, 08:24 AM   #13
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You'll also make progress really quickly as a newbie. For at least six months, you'll make gains like nobody's business, lol. I'm lifting weights that are 50% heavier than when I started back in September 2011. You'll get there and be buff when you do.
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Old 03-14-2012, 09:42 AM   #14
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thanks for all the advice in this thread. i've been meaning to start up a lifting routine, but i still feel like i don't know what i'm doing. and i don't want to waste my time doing something that is useless.

for now, i think i'll slink over to the class gym and use the free weights (probably 5,10lb) to do curls, the one where you bring your arms straight out in front of you and the one where you swing out to the sides. does this sound like a good place to start?

dontcha love my technical terms for form? lol
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Old 03-14-2012, 01:03 PM   #15
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Start with rows and presses. Those work all the muscles in your arms, chest, shoulders and, back.

Dumbbell row: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pYcpY20QaE8
(You want a highish weight for this one--probably 15 or 20lb to start. If you use weights that are too light, you won't engage your back muscles.

Dumbbell/military press: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksoSRR5aKws
(These are harder--you'll want a lighter weight than you used on the rows.)

I'd also recommend doing push ups (incline, if you can't do them on the floor) and lat pull downs. Those 4 exercises work all the big muscles in your upper body.

Also, don't skimp on lower body!

Squats, romanian deadlifts, lunges. And planks.

That should do you. Have fun!
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