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Home  > Health >  Fitness

by Paul Wolf

It's hard to say who's in the tougher position: men who go to the gym and compare themselves to the buff guys grunting in the free-weight room or women who go to the gym and feel like they're trespassing in some sweaty for-men-only club every time they set foot in the weight room.

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  • Bench press
  • Bicep curls
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    No matter who you are, here's the thing you need to remember: Knowledge is power even in the weight room. Use your brain to build muscles and your body will look smart.

    Don't worry about how much the guy next to you is lifting. All you need are two 8-pound dumbbells (yes, 8-pounders) and a narrow workout bench, and you're ready to train intelligently at home or the gym.

    "You can get a tremendous workout with little or no weight if you understand how to do the exercises," says Randell Allen, a Southern California-based personal trainer.

    It's all a matter of focusing on how the movement works, where the stress is felt, and how subtle techniques let you intensify an otherwise lightweight effort.

    The dumbbells don't have to be 8-pounders. They can be 10, 12, 15 pounds or even 5. Just don't let the weight amount be a distraction.

    "You need enough weight to provide an overload, but the more you slow down and find ways to really use those muscles, the less weight you need," says Terry Tabor, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist at the University of North Florida.

    Once you've got your 8-pounders in hand, focus on these workout intensifiers:

    • Ultra slow reps the slower the better.

    • Contracting or squeezing the target muscle through the movement.

    • Holding the weight midway through a movement in an isometric exercise.

    • Big sets of 15 or 20 reps.

    • Holding the peak part of the rep, as in the bottom of a lunge.

    • Brief rests between sets.

    Light weights provide a much better opportunity to isolate a muscle. The size of the weight matters less than the execution. Let's say you're doing a dumbbell bench press. If your elbows are pinned to your sides instead of out away from the body, you won't engage your pecs. You'll fire only your front shoulder muscles.

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    • Redefine Your Image: Get the Body You Want
    • Weight Loss Secrets
    • Fighting Workout Burnout
    • You're Not a Wuss

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    Related Stories
    • How to Hire a Trainer
    • Get a Trainer You Trust
    • Redefine Your Image: Get the Body You Want
    • Weight Loss Secrets
    • Fighting Workout Burnout
    • You're Not a Wuss

    Related Books
    • Static Contraction Training, Peter Sisco
    • Dumbbells For Dumbbells, Joe Muise
    • Free Weights Workouts, Charles Kuntzleman
    • The Great Home Gym Handbook, Mike Jesperson

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