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My gym instructor told me to increase my dumbbell weight once I feel comfortable with the current one. If I want muscle growth only to some extent (I mean not much) and maintain my body with proper endurance, toning and flexibility.

  • Is it OK that i stick to one single weight throughout or should i increase my dumbbell weights periodically as my instructor suggested ?

  • Can anyone explain the fitness aspects of these two cases?

I m currently doing dumbbell workouts using 5 kg for biceps and triceps and planning to use it for other exercises like chest press, squats, abs etc.

  • If using the same weight throughout is an option. Can anyone recommend me the proper weight since I'm thinking of buying one at home ?

I m currently 66 kg and 173 cm tall.

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3 Answers 3

Let me say this up front: one weight does not work for all your muscle groups. Your legs are far stronger than your arms. Even the act of pressing something away from your body is stronger than just doing curls or triceps extensions. You might find 5kg (~11 lbs) challenging for those muscles, but you won't even feel the difference with squats. Give yourself enough time with that weight, and it won't even feel like you are doing anything with that either. This is true whether you are a child, a woman, or a man.

To Increase Regularly or Not

There is an over-arching principle in all fitness: Specific Adaptations to Implied Demands (SAID principle). If your demands never change, you will never adapt more than you already have.

Many people function under the false impression that having muscle automatically makes them bulky or unattractive. Usually they are looking at elite bodybuilders that have put decades of dedicated work into looking the way they do and feel like that is not what they want. On the other hand if you look at the average track and field athlete, or even Olympic weightlifters, they don't have the same appearance as the body builders.

In short: don't be afraid of increasing the weights. That helps you get stronger, which in turn improves your muscle to fat proportions. While too much fat makes you not look toned, too little fat can give you that bodybuilder look you are trying to avoid. If you eat and train like an athlete you will have the physique of an athlete. That means you'll have to increase the weight over time.

The Fitness Impact

I'll bring up the SAID principle again. If the imposed demands don't change, you won't have any adaptations. To put it another way, if you keep doing the same thing at the same times, you will never see any change. You won't increase muscle any more, and you won't lose fat any more. You have to change something about what you do to cause other changes.

Potential changes that can all have an effect:

  • Change of diet: this affects the amount of fat you carry, and if you supply enough training stimulus how much muscle you can put on.
  • Change of intensity (increasing the weight): increases the demands on the muscle, which in turn will make it stronger. That in turn increasing the amount of Calories your body burns in a day.
  • Change of volume (more sets/reps): increases the demands and endurance needs of the muscle, which in turn will make it bigger. More volume tells your body you need to keep more energy close to the muscle, and the energy systems take up more room.
  • Change of training frequency: increases fatigue which can have the same effect as increasing the volume over the course of a week.
  • Change in leverages: this is particularly true with bodyweight only exercise. A pushup is harder when both hands are placed next to each other at or above forehead level. That effectively increases the work your arms are doing.

There's a limit to hours in the day, and attention span while training. Increasing intensity when you are comfortable with the sets and reps you are doing is one way to get more out of your exercise in the same amount of time. It's also a good way to challenge yourself.

You don't have to increase every time you work out. In fact it's fine to keep using the same weight for 6 weeks straight and just add reps week by week. It's a strategy that I use myself. At the end of 6 weeks, you'll be more than comfortable with that weight so it's time to increase.

Recommendation for Home Purchase

Get yourself equipment that can grow with you. Either buy an adjustable dumbbell, or buy a dumbbell handle that you can add weight to. Make sure you know were to buy additional plates. I personally have a fully equipped home gym, with Olympic plates and an Olympic barbell. When I purchased dumbbell handles I opted for handles made for Olympic plates. That ensured I could buy more weight any time I wanted from just about any source.

A pair of dumbbell handles and the plates that go with it may vary in price depending on where you live and how many options are near you. It will still be a lot less expensive than buying a number of fixed dumbbells.

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It is fine to reach a certain weight and stick at that weight.

However, different muscles react differently to increased weight. Just because you don't want large bulging muscles doesn't mean that you shouldn't increase your weight for every exercise. You can stick to one weight when doing something like bicep curls and a different weight when doing squats etc.

When you stick to a certain weight eventually you will level off as your body adapts to that weight, which is fine. You just need to decide where that level is. My suggestion is don't stick to the same weight for every exercise because you can use different weight for each exercise. Maybe you want stronger thighs, but don't want a lot of upper body muscle. Then you can keep increasing the weight when doing something like squats, but use lighter weights when working your arms.

If you want to do some work at home you can buy from most sports stores a set of weights that has a variety of weights allowing you change the weight as needed. So don't just by two dumbbells with 4x 2.5kg weights. Buy a set that includes 4 x 1.25, 4 x 2.5 and 4 x 5 or something similar. This will be your basic start and then if you want to go higher at a later time you can buy larger individual weights.

For which exercises you should use heavier weights on, I suggest speaking to the gym staff or trainer and speak to them about your goals. Do you want to run faster, do you want greater core strength, do you want general fitness etc. your goals will determine where you should focus.

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So if i m using dumbell weights for biceps alone....will sticking to the same particular weight throughout for that particular excerise would help me giving me a toned muscle(biceps)......?? –  Abhay May 22 '13 at 10:09
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It will, but only to a point. It will strengthen, but your biceps will adjust to the weight and then if you stay on the same weight you will get no further benefit. It is then your personal choice if you want to push it further by increasing or if you are happy with the size/strength/look of the muscle and just maintaining. –  xiaohouzi79 May 23 '13 at 1:16
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If your routine is to get out 8 reps it means once you are strong enough to get 8 reps you should move up (Heavier).

Otherwise you will stagnate/atrophy, I mean you can increase the reps but eventually you will just hit a plateau and wont be increasing your reps each week.

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