Here at the Bernhardt Wellness Center, we just received a new set of dumbbells.  We have pairs of dumbbells ranging from 3 to 20 pounds in 2-2.5 pound increments. They are intended to be used when the universal dumbbells are occupied or simply to have a product that is easier to handle.  They are definitely being used; however, the students can’t help but ask about one thing.  I’m continually asked “why did you get the 3 pound weights?”

I understand that young men don’t want to be insulted by association with a 3 pound weight, but they serve a great purpose.  I’m here to provide an exposé on using light weights for mobility and stability training.  I will list a few exercises that fall in line with this theme; however, I won’t go into great detail on the exercises themselves.  That is for a later post.

Working with an adolescent male population, my students are looking to increase their strength and/or add muscle.   While these are important factors, one mustn’t forget range of motion, balance, and coordination. Without these aspects, strength would be useless. It is for this reason that elite athletes perform yoga, pilates, and calisthenic exercises.  It is more important to train in order to achieve a full range of motion about a joint and to maintain your stability during a lift than it is to rep out hundreds of pounds on a stationary machine.

For this reason, I’m here to explain how training with little or no weights can greatly increase your fitness level.  Arguably the best exercise-based assessment comes with an overhead squat.  This is an extremely advanced exercise to perform correctly because there are so many limiting factors, from tight lats, hamstrings and trunk to weak glutes, traps, and shoulder stabilizers.  A great way to progress towards this movement would be to perform overhead lunges and squats with… you guessed it, little to no weight. (Notice the use of a PVC pipe in the video link.)

Another great exercise for mobility is the Turkish get-up.  You start on your back with a weight over your face and then progress to a kneeling and standing position while keeping the weight overhead.  A video is shown here. Notice that her elbow is always extended and her shoulder is locked.  This is called an isometric contraction.  The stability required for this move is such that it can’t easily be done with heavy weight; therefore, light weights are best for this exercise.

Those are a few great options for strength and mobility increases.  Other things you could do are rotator cuff exercises, grip strength exercises, or a tricep kickback.

So next time you wonder about the lighter dumbbells, or are at home without heavy weight options, remember the purpose and benefits of training for mobility and stability.