Dumbbells and I are not particularly compatible; a typically lazy gym-goer, I am more likely to be found doing exercises for lazy gym-goers than lifting weights, even if they are written “1.0 kgs.’’
So last week, trying to tick off exercises that my friends swear by to have trimmed their bodies, I found myself in an aerobics toning class, with over 40 participants.
In this class, the rules sound simple; you must have a dumbbell in each hand, tighten your abdominal muscles, ensure the back and arms are straight most times and then you do over 25 types of exercises in about 45 minutes. These workouts involve rhythmically doing aerobics moves to the beats of 90s soukous music while lifting weights.
The weight of the dumbbell depends on how seasoned or strong you are. Most gym participants picked pairs of four-kilogramme dumbbells. I picked a pair written ‘’3.0 kgs’’ which I thought were quite tiny.
But just 20 minutes into the exercises which involved doing squats, arm and leg raises, wrists rotation, side crunches; all while holding the dumbbells, I started panting.
The tiny dumbbells felt so heavy that I wanted to throw them out of the window! I was sore around the love handles after doing numerous side crunches, my arms and legs were so tired that I had little energy left to lift them up. But I was happier that the fat burning process had started. The next week, I was back in the ‘fat destroyer’ class.
Mark Amunabi, a fitness instructor who has been training aerobics toning classes in Nairobi for years, says dumbbell exercises burn body fat faster and helps gain strength.
“This is a low-intensity exercise that can truly give you results. Dumbbell exercises perfectly tone the flabby arms, corrects bad posture, strengthens and chisels the upper back, and more importantly you’re unlikely to have love handles after religiously doing dumbbell exercises,” he says.
“These exercises target the arms, back, oblique, legs muscles … basically the whole body. Exercising with dumbbells consistency yields toned arms, toned thighs, obliques and abdomen. If you don’t tone in five months, then you are not consistent in exercising,” he adds.
In his class, he does different variations of the following dumbbell exercises that he swears by to have helped his clients shed excess weight and tone their bodies to perfection.
For Upper Body
Besides working on the arms, chest, shoulders, they help relieve tension in the back and shoulder after years of bad posture or sitting for long hours or inactivity.
—Uppercut with a dumbbell: This is essentially a boxing move that helps strengthen the arm muscles. It trains the front part of the shoulder and the biceps. Usually, a person retracts the shoulders and then lifts one leg off the ground and they curl and punch their arm like a boxer. This exercise done over time helps to enhance stability especially among the elderly and those who are overweight.
—Arm stretching with a dumbbell: Carrying the dumbbells next to your sides, stretching the arms with a slight bend at the elbow continuously, while squeezing the abdominal muscle and ensuring the back is straight works on the upper shoulder, the arms and the upper abdominal area.
-Bent-over rows and raises: These are more than just back exercises. Besides strengthening the back, they also work on the shoulder muscles. The bent-over row exercise also targets the arms and legs, as well as muscles in the shoulders and the core. In this exercise, arch your back, keep the core tight and in a bending position, pull the dumbbells back like someone who is rowing.
For Lower Body
These exercises work on the lower abdomen, thighs, and legs.
Squats: Any properly executed squat using a dumbbell may be an effective muscle builder than all other exercises combined. This leg exercise is a powerful fat-burning tool workout. Holding the dumbbell — in front of the chest while doing squats helps tone the thighs, lower abdomen and the muscles under the butt area. It also helps work on the back especially if you have persistent back pains.
Side crunches: Doing side bends while holding dumbbell either when sitting on a step or standing with knees slightly bent targets the oblique muscles and tightens the abdominal wall. This exercise can easily eliminate the ‘love handles.’ It also strengthens the back, improves a person’s balance and increases strength.
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