Proper free weight technique

Today’s workout will involve free weights. I will be using a pair of dumbbells and a curling bar to target the muscles in my upper body, specifically my back and shoulder muscles. I want to emphasize proper form when using this equipment and so I will need to remember a few rules:

Rule #1) Always keep the crown of the head as the highest point of your body. Imagine balancing a book on your head as you perform each exercise. Why? It is easy to bring your chin too far forward or backward causing extra strain on the neck muscles. These muscles are injured easily and so you need to be vigilant.

Rule #2) Keep your chest out and your shoulders slightly back to maintain good posture. A rounded back or slumping shoulders means you are shifting the effort to muscles other than the ones you want to target.

Rule #3) Maintain a good foundation. All free weight exercises require a very specific stance and so you should pay attention to how you place your feet. Most exercises require feet shoulder width apart or in a natural, comfortable stance. Some suggest your feet to be flared outwards. Balance is key. If you find your weight shifting to your toes you could find yourself in trouble real fast. You are most likely doing something wrong.

Rule #4) Breathe and engage your abs. Concentrate on maintaining a consistent breathing technique: exhaling while muscles are under duress and inhaling while they are relaxing. While your breathing is emphasized keep your core tight. This will do two things: reduces the chance of injury by helping you to concentrate and a tight core helps you to maintain balance.

Rules are key to prevent injury. Reckless use of free weights at a minimum will slow down your development and worst case put you in the hospital. Beyond the muscles you intend to target keep in mind there are also many other smaller muscles also engaged. Poor technique will add strain to these muscles.

Today, I will be focusing on the deltoids, trapezius and the latissimus dorsi (lats).

Major Back MuslcesMinor back muscles

These muscles completely over shadow (and overlap) a group of smaller muscles that can easily be strained such as the rhomboids, capitis, and seratus muscles therefore proper technique is critical.

Today’s workout:

  • Five exercise superset (6 reps, 4 sets)
    • Front Shoulder Press
    • Fly
    • Bent Over Reverse Fly
    • Dumbbell Upright Row
    • Shoulder Press
  • Individual exercises (6-8 reps, 4 sets)
    • Reverse Push-up
    • Bent Over Row
    • Barbell Shrug

For more information this workout can be found in The Diet for a Busy Life

Photos courtesy of

2 thoughts on “Proper free weight technique”

  1. Good advice. Can’t tell you how often I see poor form in the gym that can lead to injury. Safety is key.

    But I have some questions about the work out.

    “Fly” movements isolate the chest, did you want a chest exercise or did you want a back in your superset? Lat pulldowns or chin ups would be good or push-up position dumbbell rows to stay with the equipment choices. Also supersets usually involve 2 paired exercises using opposing or different muscle groups. Did you want the supersets paired? If so, you need another exercise, if not than I would identify it as a circuit. Finally, what’s the difference between a front shoulder press and a shoulder press? I would use a lateral raise for another shoulder exercise unless you clarify how these are different.

    Good stuff. Keep it coming.

    Dr. A

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