Photo: Getty Images

Resistance strength training provides numerous benefits to your health and mobility. According to the CDC, strength training can reduce the risk and symptoms of arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, obesity, and back pain. This training can also ward off the loss of independence many experience as they age. Using hand weights as part of a regular exercise routine can positively impact your quality of life.

Why Hand Weights

Hand weights are much less expensive and more versatile than exercise equipment machines — which target only a few muscle groups. Gym memberships are also costly and require more time out of your schedule if you aim to commit to going regularly. Additionally, hand weights require stabilizer muscles to complete movements, providing more functional training.

Body weight exercise can be a good option for beginners. However, many reach a point where added external resistance will be required to increase muscle growth. A small set of hand weights, between five and 20 pounds, is inexpensive, practical, and easy to start strength training.

The Importance of Warming Up/Cooling Down

To prevent injury, ensure you warm up before attempting these exercises. Many trainers recommend some light cardio and dynamic stretching and activation exercises in the muscle area you intend to train. To stretch, gently swing the body part you intend to train through its entire range of motion. Then, perform a set of reps of the movement you intend to perform without weights. To cool down, do light static stretching of the muscle areas you utilized.

Bicep Curls

Sitting or standing, place your arms by your sides with your palms facing forward while holding your weights. Bend your arm(s) at your elbow, and bring your hand to your shoulder. Choose a weight you feel comfortable performing at least eight reps of this exercise. Make sure you keep the rest of your body stable and only bend your elbow–don’t swing your shoulder or arch your back if the weight feels too heavy. Repeat for 8-10 reps and 2-3 sets.

Floor Press

Lie on your back to train your chest, triceps, and shoulders comfortably. Bend your knees upward and place your feet flat on the floor. While holding your weights, put your elbows on the floor with your forearms pointing straight up and your upper arms flat on the floor perpendicular to your torso. Press your weights forward until your arms are straight. Repeat for 8-10 reps and 2-3 sets.

Photo: Getty Images


If you have mastered body weight squats, add some resistance by completing the motion while holding some small hand weights. Hold your weights in each hand by your sides while standing. Keep your back straight, and bend forward slightly at the hip while squatting until your upper leg is parallel to the floor. You can also use a chair to assist in this movement by squatting into and out of the chair. Repeat for 8-10 reps and 2-3 sets.

Bent Over Row

This back exercise can improve posture and reduce back pain. Hold your weights in each hand, bend your knees slightly, and bend forward at your hip–make sure you keep your lower back straight. Let your hands/weights hang out below you, lift your hands/weights upward while bending your arm at the elbow, and flex your shoulder blades toward each other. You should feel the muscles between your spine and shoulder blades tighten. Repeat for 8-10 reps and 2-3 sets.

Shoulder Press

While seated, sit up straight, and put your hands/weights above your shoulders with your arms parallel to your torso. Push your weights straight above your head and lower to the starting position. Repeat for 8-10 reps and 2-3 sets.

There are nearly limitless other exercises you can perform with a small set of hand weights. Try some of these to get started and to see how your overall mobility and body functionality improves. Just remember to use good form!

The Active Aging Series is brought to you by our partner, Cambrian Homecare. Cambrian Homecare has been assisting individuals to stay independent in their homes for 25 years. Flexible experience you can trust, when the best place is still at home.