Are You Missing Out on the Dumbbell? -

Written by Funk Roberts

If you’ve been training hard and not seeing the results you were hoping for, tweaking your training routine might be all your body needs. For your body to progress, grow, and adapt, it needs a continuous challenge. That doesn’t mean challenging it daily with the same routine—it means turning up the heat on your workout and changing variables to challenge your body in ways it’s never been challenged. It’s called the law of progressive overload, and it’s how you can get your dream body.

There are plenty of ways to work overload into your training program, but none are as effective as HIIT with weights.

If you’ve never ventured into high-intensity training, you’re about to have your eyes opened to how amazing your results can be. It fires up your muscles and metabolism to burn calories, melt fat, and build muscle simultaneously.

What Is Metabolic Resistance Training?

Metabolic resistance training—you’ve likely never heard about it, but it’s about to become your new favorite training style. Usually referred to as MRT, metabolic resistance training is a training strategy that combines high-intensity exercises with resistance (weights) to build lean muscle, torch body fat, and improve overall physical fitness.

There’s a lot of research on how effective HIIT is for melting body fat and burning calories, but when you’re combining all-out max effort with solid compound muscle-building movements, you’re raising your metabolism to burn calories, increase your lactate threshold, boost muscle growth, and enhance your body’s ability to adapt.

Yet here’s the thing—no single workout constitutes MRT. It’s an umbrella term that describes any form of intense, cardiovascular and muscular training. We’re talking about combining supersets, circuits, and bodyweight movements that elevate your heart rate and fire up your muscles. MRT is so effective for fat loss because you’re not only boosting your metabolism during your workout to burn calories and fat, but it stays elevated after thanks to the EPOC effect to continue the calorie and fat burn even after you’ve stopped training. It blurs the lines between conventional weight training and cardio to form a style of training that’s substantially more effective than either alone.

The Benefits of Using Dumbbells

You can’t argue that dumbbells are effective. Whether working in the high-rep low weight range or reversing it to the low-rep high weight range, it’s easy to build muscle with dumbbells, but side from kettlebells, dumbbells are some of the best free weights you can use for overall functionality and performance.

Here’s why: Whether you’re a total newbie to training or a seasoned pro, machines and barbells are some of the most common equipment for lifting. Yet the not-so-popular cousin to the barbell, the dumbbell, is one of the best equipment you can use for muscle growth, fat loss, and overall better functionality and performance. Here’s why:

1. Better stabilization and muscle activation

Using a machine is great if you’re looking to overload your muscles, but if you’re looking to go beyond fatigue, you can’t get much better than a good ol’ set of dumbbells. Compared to machines and even barbells, dumbbells require more stabilization to perform the same exercise solely because of where the weight sits on a dumbbell in relation to where your hand is. When more stabilization is required, you’re activating more muscle fibres and potentially doing more damage (more damage = more muscle growth). With any sort of free weight, the load isn’t stable—you tip it the wrong way, and the load can move anywhere it pleases. That said, your stabilizer muscles are there to prevent that from happening; they ensure the load is controlled and moving efficiently. This doesn't happen when using machines because the movement pathways are fixed.

Poor stabilizer recruitment means the body has to accommodate during movements by generating more momentum or altering movement patterns to overcome a lack of stabilization. Because of this, your injury risk increases and you ingrain poor movement patterns, neither of which we want. Plus, strong stabilizers allow you to lift greater loads. More stable structures can generate higher levels of force and, therefore, more power.

2. Reduces strength imbalances

Machines and barbells are effective for increasing strength, but there’s one downside to only sticking to preset movement pathways where both arms are working together: strength imbalances. Have you ever done a bench press only to notice that one arm is significantly stronger than the other? If you’re always using machines and barbells, it can be difficult to see strength imbalances developing because another muscle group picks up the slack. However, You can’t do that with dumbbells—they force your limbs to work unilaterally, which helps build strength in weaker muscles to avoid compensation and improper movement patterns.

3. More options to increase the intensity

Whether you’re firing up your muscles with drop sets, rest-pause, or whatever other technique you fancy, you can increase the challenge a lot more with dumbbells than you can with barbells and machines—it’s easy to rack-and-run. Plus, there are specific exercises you can do with dumbbells that you just can’t with barbells or machines.

4. Better range of motion

Machines, and barbells, to some degree, work on a pre-set movement pathway that doesn't allow for a full range of motion; the machine can only be extended so far and you can only move your arms a set degree with a barbell in hand. However, with dumbbells, you can move through a larger range of motion and force your body to adapt and work harder to overload the muscles and build strength.

5. Freedom of movement

Similar to what we just mentioned, a barbell or machine locks your body in a fixed position and a fixed range of motion, but with dumbbells, you have complete freedom of movement—there is no fixed position or range of motion to move through. There’s a lot more choice in how you move with dumbbells that you can’t get from other types of weights. If you’re trying to target a specific muscle more, change the movement pattern slightly to target it; if you’re experiencing pain on a conventional lift, rotate internally, externally, lift, or lower the weight to find a comfortable movement path that’s pain-free.

So, how can you shed fat and get shredded without spending hours in the gym? For Fitclub members, here’s your 30-minute dumbbell shred metabolic workout that’ll light your entire body on fire and give you results you never thought possible. Aren't a fitclub member? Join now.

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