Free Weights
The end of 2022 may be nearing, but it's not too late to get started - or, uh, restarted - on those resolutions you set 11 months ago. I is 2022, and there is a plethora of tools and resources available at your disposal to help you reach your goals. I'm going to add my thoughts to that conglomeration with a list of ways that you can use free weights in your at-home strength training regimen!

Types of Free Weights

I'm not going to get into all the different types of free weights, mostly because I spent hours writing everything you need to know about what they are and how to use them. ;)

However, I can recommend some pieces of equipment that will add some options and variety to your at-home workouts for a reasonable price:

Shameless plug: if you purchase your free weights from us at Freedom Fitness Equipment, we have some excellent options for your gym!

Body Part Movements

topless man in black shorts carrying black dumbbell

There are many benefits of using free weights instead of machines and, while I wouldn't recommend exclusively using one or the other, the best strength training programs will incorporate a wide variety of free weight and machine exercises.

Many strength training programs utilize similar functional movement patterns of pushing, pulling and squatting for different muscle groups. It is these movement patterns that many machines mimic and, while you may be able to use machines to move more weight quantitatively, you have to take into consideration your body's overall fitness. The benefits of moving heavy weight will be limited if your range of motion is inhibited by a machine.

With these movement patterns in mind, I presently want to highlight some common exercises that can be incorporated in your at-home free weight strength training regimen.


With only free weights at your disposal, there are a number of ways to both exercise the entire leg functionally and isolate target muscles.

Functional Movements:


Squats are an essential movement in all stages of life, and strengthening our ability to move in this way only results in an overall better quality of life. Plus, being able to say you can rep the weight of another human is pretty cool, too. How can you better this movement at home using free weights? Easy. Here are some different squat variations that can be done with your home-gym equipment:

Adding pulses, pauses and jumps to any of these movements will keep the all the benefits of strength training and the intensity you may be worried about losing outside the gym.


Lunges are another movement often used in everyday life, with or without our awareness. Here are some examples of lunges that can be performed either as bodyweight exercises or free weight exercises:

  • Forward Lunge: again, starting with the basics; if you're feeling particularly motivated in your workout, make this a walking movement.

  • Reverse Lunge: places more emphasis on the glutes.

  • Lateral Lunge: a lunge, but take it to the side to hit the outside and inside of your thigh.

Isolating Movements

  • Forward Lunges/Single Leg Squat: placing foot closer to body isolates the quad while placing the foot further away from the body isolates the glutes and hamstrings.

  • Romanian Deadlift: your glutes and hamstrings will thank me. These can also be performed as a single-leg exercise.

  • Lying Leg Curl: no machines necessary here!

  • Calf Raise: this trusty exercise can be performed off the floor holding a dumbbell or off a dumbbell to add increased extension.


Photo by Monika Cruz. back, bodybuilding, biceps.

To work your back at home using free weights, you're going to find yourself doing a wide variety of rows.

Row variations

  • Deadlifts (with dumbbells): don't focus on heavy weight; focus on form and target muscle activation.

Other Movements

  • Pullovers: great for hitting both your chest and your back (watch this video to see how the movements for each differ slightly).

  • Supermans: don't underestimate the power of this core workout for targeting your back! Add light weight if you want to gas your shoulders.

  • Medicine Ball Slam: a great functional whole-body movement (helps in releasing pent-up anger).


Photo by Bennett Harris. dumbbell, bodybuilding, strength, chest fly.

It's not difficult to target your chest with free weights. These are the major movements and their variations that you'll use inside or outside the gym:

Press Variations

Presses are a staple for building a bigger chest and strengthening your upper body. There exist a number of variations of this movement and, though you can creatively use any number of free weights, most of these utilize dumbbells:

  • Flat Bench Press: can be used with dumbbells or a kettlebell. You can alternate arms with this movement or press both at the same time. Another variation is performing this close-gripped.

  • Incline Press: targets the pecs from a different angle.

  • Decline Press: yet again, targets the pecs from a different angle.

  • Floor Press: you don't even need a bench!

  • Medicine Ball Pushup: yes, pushups are still an effective strength training exercise. Adding a medicine ball can take your pushup - and overall stability - to the next level.

other movement

  • Dumbbell Fly: helps isolate chest muscles and prevent other muscles - including the shoulders and triceps - from doing too much of the work.

  • Pullovers: great for hitting both your chest and your back (watch this video to see how the movements for each differ slightly).


person facing down and holding two rods

You can easily target the entire shoulder without the use of a single machine. As many people - myself included - can attest to, a prior shoulder injury could affect your range of motion for any one of these exercises, so pay attention to any movement that may cause unexpected pain.


  • Single Arm Presses: can be used with a dumbbell or kettlebell.

  • Shoulder Press: can be performed standing, which helps include the core and other stabilizing muscles and allows for greater weight, or seated, which helps isolate the shoulders.

bodybuilding, posing, strength
  • Arnold Press: can't leave out a movement named after the legend himself.


These exercises can be performed unilaterally or bilaterally. If you're performing this exercise unilaterally, you can alternate arms (ie. perform a rep with the left arm and then a rep with the right arm, so on and so forth) or you can perform a set with your left arm and then a set with your right arm.

  • Front Raises: a great exercise for both warming up and burning out your shoulders...whatever you're feeling that day.

  • Lateral Raises: work the shoulders from a different angle; can be performed standing or seated.

  • Reverse Dumbbell Fly: targets the back of your shoulders (ie. your rear delts).

Other Movements

  • Upright Row: you can use a kettlebell or dumbbells for this exercise, which targets your traps and shoulders both.

  • Single-Arm Kettlebell Snatch: this full-body movement helps strengthen the functionality of your shoulder joints.

  • Shrugs: if you like big traps and you cannot lie, then this exercise is for you; can be performed with dumbbells or kettlebells.


The nice thing about working out your arms is that you work them as an accessory in a lot of other muscle group movements. If you want to isolate them, though, worry not. You already know there are free weight exercises for them!


Photo by Bennett Harris. bodybuilding, strength, biceps

Your biceps help move weight during your back exercises. If you're training for size, though, you're going to have to isolate them with curls. There are so many kinds of curls, and I wouldn't say one is necessarily "better" than another; they just all work the bicep differently. It all comes down to what feels good for you, but I would try to incorporate a few of these into your strength training program!

  • Dumbbell Curl: the most basic of the curls. You can perform these with your arms moving simultaneously or alternating. This movement can also be performed with kettlebells or with a barbell if you're lucky enough to have one in your home gym.

  • Hammer Curl: a slight variation; nothing too crazy.

  • Concentration Curl: might have to focus a little harder for this one (lol).


grayscale photo of man exercising

Your triceps help with support during your chest and shoulder workouts. Again, if you're really chasing that horseshoe-shaped tricep, you're going to want to incorporate some of these exercises:

Workout Examples

Whether you need to get in one workout at the house or you're looking for an entire free weight workout routine, there are plenty of options out there. Let me offer a few options to you:

Resistance Training Workout (Full Body)

Combining movements into one exercise can help make a training session more concise. You don't have to spend hours in the gym pumping iron in order to see results in muscle size and overall fitness. All you need is a couple of free weights, a desire to train hard and about half an hour (on the low end). Lower the amount of rest between sets, and watch the intensity of your session increase. Here's a sample full-body resistance training free weight workout:

Renegade Rows 4 x 12 each arm

Goblet Squat 4 x 15

Dumbbell Front Raise into Lateral Raise 4 x 12


Dumbbell Curls 4 x 10

Overhead Tricep Extension 4 x 10

high intensity interval training (hiit)

Get your heart rate up with this fast-paced HIIT workouts. This article offers a number of HIIT workouts ranging from 5 to 45 minutes in length. I personally find a session in the 20-30 minute range to be the most effective, but if 15 minutes is all you have, something is better than nothing! Add free weights to increase the intensity and your strength.


woman in black tank top and black leggings holding black and white nike shoes

Similar to HIIT sessions, circuit training are effective for getting in a good full-body workout with limited time. Plus, you can create a circuit-style workout program that isolates specific body parts if you wanted. The key here? Keep rest between sets minimal until you've competed all the movements in one circuit. The options are pretty limitless. Here's an example of a leg-day circuit workout using only free weights:

1. Weighted Jump Squat 20 reps

2. Single Leg RDL 12 reps each leg

3. Weighted Lateral Lunge 12 reps each leg

4. Lying Leg Curl 15 reps

5. Weighted Wall Sit 45 seconds

6. Single Leg Calf Raise 20 reps each leg

7. 60 second rest

Repeat 3-4 times


Best free weights to build your home gym? Anything you can get a hand on. If your goal is to get a good, effective sweat session squeezed into your day, there's no need for racks and machines. There are plenty of options for both individual workouts and workout routines that only use free weights, which can conveniently be performed in your garage or in the gym.

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