Dumbbell don’ts

Dumbbells, along with other external resistance equipment, fulfill an important role in fitness. We utilize dumbbells for a variety of exercises and training modalities to increase our muscular strength and endurance throughout the body. However, there are times when dumbbells are not appropriate either for safety or effectiveness (or both) reasons and this week, those “don’ts” will be featured to enable you to make wise choices about dumbbell use. As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.

There is little benefit and plenty of risk involved in walking/running/cycling with dumbbells in your hands. When performing walking/running/cycling activities, the purpose is generally to improve cardiorespiratory fitness and utilize the entire body through a full, complete range of motion. When adding a “weapon” in your hands, users tend to limit their ranges of motion to prevent discomfort and lack of control from occurring at the shoulder/elbow/wrist joints which diminishes the effect of the activity considerably by disrupting the motor pattern and range of motion. Due to the potential for injury, leave the dumbbells in the weight room and properly perform a walking/running/cycling stride/revolution with the lower body and arm swing during walking/running. Does added weight increase your caloric expenditure? Possibly, however, if you would like to add more weight to your walk/run/cycle, consider wearing a weighted vest. Although, do so by adding small incremental weight increases to enable the body to manage the added load safely. If expending more calories is your goal, increase the incline or add high intensity intervals into the program which work very well to increase intensity levels and thereby caloric expenditure.

Place ankle weights on your ankles when walking/running/cycling. This places unnecessary strain, potentially leading to serious injury, on the lumbar spine, hip/knee/ankle joints which are already under considerable stress from the activity (i.e. risk/benefits analysis).

Utilize dumbbells or other external resistance when participating in indoor group cycling classes. The primary purpose of indoor group cycling is to simulate an outdoor cycling experience and to improve your cardiorespiratory fitness level. Consequently, you need every physical tool in your fitness tool box to focus upon safe/effective cycling biomechanics without the distraction or ineffectiveness of utilizing external resistance equipment. And, most indoor group cycling programs that do promote and use external resistance while on the bike, use light resistance and high repetitions which does not effectively or safely improve muscular strength and endurance. Rather than create an ineffective and possibly unsafe multitasking scenario on the indoor cycle, instead consider attending cycling class formats that include weight training circuits/intervals off the bike.

Utilizing dumbbells when you are on any piece of cardiovascular training equipment. This is just unsafe. If the treadmill is moving and you cannot use your hands in the event of a stability issue, you are toast.

Unless and until you have mastered the fundamental movement pattern of any exercise without dumbbells, it is not time to add dumbbells to the mix. Master the movement pattern, then progressively increase the intensity by adding dumbbells incrementally. Each time you increase the dumbbell weight increment, make certain you have mastered the movement pattern with that current dumbbell load before you add any further load.

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