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I was just given a set of weights - adjustable weight dumbells - as a present, but I have no idea what sort of weights/how many reps I should be doing in order to achieve the best results.

I'm looking to increase the strength of my arms and wrists (lean strength?), and hope it can increase my strength for playings sports like tennis, squash and so on.

Is there a rule of thumb for weights/reps I should be aiming at?

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This is very broad and difficult to answer as asked. Please add more detail to the question, in particular what your goals are: does "best results" mean you want to gain muscle bulk, or gain lean strength, or...? Also, knowing specifically what came in your set of weights would be helpful. Is it just some plates and a long bar, or is there more to it? –  Greg Mar 8 '11 at 1:21
Will update the question; as you can see I don't know much about the topic. Thanks! –  Ciaocibai Mar 8 '11 at 1:30

2 Answers 2

up vote 12 down vote accepted

First, you'll want to pick a set of exercises to do and learn how to do them with proper form. Then you can start increasing the weight and set a schedule.

In general, I would recommend a full-body workout that hits all the muscle groups with a few compound lifts. However, I'll try to craft a workout for you here that fits your stated goal with the equipment that you have.

For exercises, try:

You can experiment more as you get comfortable, but this might be a good workout to start with. You can do it as often as you feel energetic and not sore, but a good starting goal might be 2x/week; err on the side of an extra day of rest rather than straining yourself because muscles grow when they recover. I would suggest doing 3-5 sets of 8 reps of each with a couple minutes rest between each set.

As far as how much weight to use, you need to first use a very light weight and make sure that you have your form down (pay attention to the tips and the motions in the videos). When you're comfortable with the movements, add weight for each exercise gradually. If you're doing 8 reps per set, then you'll want a weight at which you'd fail after perhaps 10-12 reps.

A few other hints that will help pay off down the road:

  • Keep your core tight when doing these exercises
  • Squeeze the bar when you're lifting, especially for the dumbell curls.
  • Lower the weight slowly; these are called negatives and can be as beneficial as lifting the weight up
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Great answer - thanks very much for this - a really good starting point for me. Cheers! –  Ciaocibai Mar 9 '11 at 2:20

For strength, 3 work sets of 5 reps is suggested by Starting Strength. 5x5 is recommended at StrongLifts 5x5. Work sets do not include warm up sets. For warm-up, you can do 3 sets at 25%, 50%, 75% of work weight with about

If you are just starting then begin with a small weight to get used to the motion and improve form. At every workout that you succeed your work sets, increase weight by the smallest increment you can. This is the most important part: If you want to get stronger, you must lift heavier weight.

Don't neglect your shoulders for tennis and squash. Do Overhead Presses and Bench Presses. http://www.exrx.net/Exercise.html

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