Guide to strength training using adjustable dumbbells

Varying your workouts is key to helping your body adapt and get stronger, says Ronai. That’s why he and Saladino recommend training at times with an emphasis on endurance, and at other times using heavier weights with an emphasis on strength and power. Increasing the amount of weight you lift over time is important because it will help you avoid a plateau and continue to improve bone and muscle health, says De Leon. That’s why you need to keep challenging your muscles to get stronger by adding weight once you can do your workouts in great form.

The American College of Sports Medicine often recommends adding weight using what’s called the “two for two” rule, says Ronai. If you do three sets of 12 reps of an exercise and on your last set you are able to do two more reps, try doing it again in your next workout. If you can do two more reps again on your last set, you should be able to add some extra weight the next time you do this exercise.

Another thing to consider is how much weight you can add. If you’re using adjustable dumbbells, the amount you can add varies: it might be 2.5 pounds, but it might be 5 pounds. Adding 5 pounds can be a lot for some exercises, so if you need to do a few extra reps at a lower weight before adding, do so.

With adjustable dumbbells, you may also run into an issue where there is no more weight to add, once you use the full amount of weight on your set. One way to add more weight is to use a resistance band to add extra resistance, Ronai says. But don’t just add the resistance band to the heaviest weight — it can be hard to quantify how the extra resistance will make an exercise more difficult, he says.

Instead, use a little less weight than you normally would when trying to add a band for the first time. Even at lighter weights, adding a band can be helpful, Saladino says, because it can force you to focus on correct form and add challenge to every movement of an exercise. You can also make an exercise more difficult without adding weight by reducing the rest time or performing lifts very slowly, De Leon says.

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