21 Free Weight Exercises for Strength, Muscle, and Balance (With Videos)

Follow along these these exercises to get stronger and fitter

free weight exercises for beginners, intermediate, advanced levels

Free weight exercises involve doing workouts with any weighted object that you can move around with.

These objects include dumbbells, barbells, and kettlebells. Free weights, unlike machines, enable motion while still engaging in the exercise.

Free weight exercises use different weights such as medicine balls, kettlebells, and dumbbells to build muscle and strength.

These exercises are easy to do and can help to develop your fitness.

In this article, we’ll look at our favorite free weight exercises for different levels (beginner, intermediate and advanced).

Before then, how important are these exercises?

Importance of free weight exercises

Free weight exercises are not only convenient and cost-effective, but they are also easily done at home.

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Adding these exercises to your workout routine is a great way to develop muscle, strength, and balance.

They also help you to burn calories and become pretty much better at everyday tasks. 

Here are some of the benefits of free weight exercises. 

  • Free weight exercises are more efficient since all your body’s core work together.
  • They make body muscles work together to improve balance.
  • They typically burn more calories than resistance machine exercises.
  • Free weight exercises help to trigger better hormonal responses. 
  • There are reduced risks of injuries.
  • They improve performance in other daily activities. 
  • There are no limits to the free weight exercises you can do. 

Related: Fat vs Muscle: The Ultimate Guide to Differences & Role in Weight Loss

Free weight exercises come in different routine levels.

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First, we have the beginner routine, followed by the intermediate, and finally, the advanced routine.

Let’s check out the different exercises at each level. 

Free Weight Exercises for Beginners

Are you new to lifting weights? Do not panic. The beginner’s routine is a good way to kick start your workout journey. 

As a beginner, you should always endeavor to do 3 sets of 10-12 reps of each of the exercises using the lightest free weight of choice.

Always take a minute break after each set.

Whenever the workout begins to look easy to you, choose a heavier free weight as a replacement.

Here are some of the best beginner free weight exercises to do: 

1. Weighted Glute Bridge

Glute bridge is an important exercise that strengthens the lower back, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. 

A study showed that exercises that stabilize the lower back. But that’s not all.

It can also strengthen the gluteus muscles resulted in lesser lower back pain and an increase in balance, ability, and strength. 

How to Perform:

  • Lie on your back with knees bent while your feet are flat on the ground.
  • Position the dumbbell exactly above your hip bones, supporting it with your hands.
  • Brace your core and push through your heels.

2. Lunges

This exercise promotes leg strength and balance. It works on muscles like the calves, quads, and hamstrings.

Research shows that lunges and other eccentric exercises prevent injuries of muscles in the lower limb. 

How to perform: 

  • Hold one dumbbell in each hand with your arms down by your sides.
  • Take a big step forward with your left leg
  • Bend your knee and lower your body as well and stop when your right thigh is parallel to the ground.
  • Make sure your chest out, and your shoulders stay back straight throughout the process.
  • Push up your right foot, returning to the starting position.
  • Repeat the process.

3. Overhead Shoulder Press

This free weight exercise improves balance and posture while strengthening the whole of your upper body. 

How to perform:

  • Stand on your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Place a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Bring the weights up to the front of your shoulders, having your palm face out.
  • Keep your core braced and torso upright.
  • Push the dumbbells up, extending your arms as you go.
  • Pause at the top, then release, bend your elbows and let the weight return above your shoulders.

4. Single-Arm Dumbbell Row

The single-arm dumbbell row hits the important muscles responsible for good posture.

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A good postural exercise is essential to improving the body’s balance while relieving musculoskeletal pains. 

How to perform: 

  • Position yourself next to an elevated surface (bench or table).
  • Brace yourself with your torso slightly bent.
  • Split your stance and hold a dumbbell in your free hand.
  • Start pulling your elbow up and down, squeezing your shoulder blade.
  • Pause at the top, then release and repeat.

5. Floor Press

Floor press works on muscles such as the pecs, triceps, and anterior deltoids. 

How to Perform: 

  • Lie down with your back and feet flat on the ground.
  • Put a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Put your upper arm at a 45-degree angle to your body with the dumbbell in the air.
  • Lift the dumbbells by extending your arms.
  • Pause at the top, then return to the starting point.

6. Arm Circles

This is a free weight exercise that is directed towards the shoulder and arm strength. 

How to Perform: 

  • Stand with your arms extended sideways.
  • Slowly make clockwise circles.
  • Then reverse the movement.

7. Squats

Squats are functional exercises with plenty of benefits.

They help to strengthen the important muscles in the body, improving joint motion and ensuring that you perform your daily tasks easily. 

How to Perform:

  • Stand with your feet turned out 15 degrees.
  • Slowly bend your knees and hips until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  • Make sure the back of your feet doesn’t leave the ground.
  • Press through your heels and return to a standing position.

Free Weight Exercises: Intermediate Routine

This routine is not for greenhorns. Trying this workout routine means you are not new to free-weight exercises.

Try to complete 3-4 sets with a minimum of 8 reps and a maximum of 15 reps. Adjust weights according to need.

8. Barbell Back Squat

This is similar to the regular squats, but with a barbell on your shoulders. It is considered a full-body exercise that helps improve agility. 

How to perform: 

  • Carry a barbell onto your shoulders.
  • Have your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Start the squat by sitting back in your hips and then bend your knees.
  • Keep your chest and gaze up ahead while doing the pose.
  • Take a pause when your thighs are parallel and push up back to the starting position.

9. Barbell Deadlift

This exercise hits muscles present in your body from head to toe. It helps in total body strength and conditioning. 

How to Perform: 

  • Place Barbell on the ground and stand above it with your  feet apart
  • Bend over with a straight back, bend your knees and grip the Barbell.
  • Roll your shoulders down and back simultaneously, inhale and pull the Barbell up by straightening your legs.

10. Bent-Over Row

In this case, there’s no added support, unlike with the single-arm dumbbell row. It works on your traps, rear deltoids, lower back, and other muscles. 

How to perform: 

  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand with arms wideout.
  • Bend your waist at 45 degrees having your back straightened and neutral neck.
  • Brace your core.
  • Pull your elbow up and back, hence, squeezing your shoulder blades.

11. Floor Chest Fly

This free weight exercise helps you to challenge your chest in another realm. 

How to perform: 

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  • Lie on your back, bend your knees, and have your feet flat on the ground.
  • Put a dumbbell in each hand and extend your arm out as the body forms a T shape.
  • Your palm should face the ceiling.
  • Keep a slightly bent elbow, brace your core and pull in the dumbbell towards the center of your body using the chest muscles.
  • When the dumbbell reaches the middle, pause, and restart.

12. Arnold Press

It improves on the overhead shoulder press to work on your triceps, traps, and deltoids. 

How to Perform: 

  • Stand feet apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Bend your elbows, assume a bicep curl position, and bring the dumbbells to your shoulder with the palm facing your body.
  • Brace your core and begin rotating your palms out while raising your arms above your head simultaneously.

13. Plank

Plank is a highly effective functional exercise. Study shows that people who carry out functional exercises could move easily and walk faster without pain. 

How to Perform: 

  • Lie on the floor facing down.
  • Forearms on the floor, and you’re gripped.
  • Extend your leg behind, rising on your toes. 
  • Keep your back straight. 
  • Tighten your core.
  • Hold the position for 30-60 seconds or more.

14. Modified Wall Squat

This is a great exercise for improving lumbar stability and strengthening the lower limbs. 

How to Perform:  

  • Slowly slide your back down a wall until your thighs are parallel to the ground.
  • Make sure your knees are directly above your ankle. 
  • Hold your harms forward with a free weight apparatus in your hands. 
  • Keep your back straightened.
  • Maintain the pose for about 60 seconds per set.

Free Weight Exercises: Advanced Routine

The advanced level is where you take your body to another level. This time, you will have to challenge your balance, strength, and stability.

Aim for 3 to 4 sets with at least 8 to 15 reps while increasing accordingly. Don’t forget to take regular breaks as needed. 

15. Renegade Row

This combines the plank exercise with a row. It is best to start with lighter weights until you’re sure of enduring heavier ones. 

How to Perform: 

  • Take a plank position but grip a dumbbell with each hand while maintaining this position.
  • The dumbbells should be parallel to your body.
  • Maintain a strong core, lift your right arm, pulling the elbow up and back, squeezing the shoulder blade. Keep your chest to the ground. 
  • Release and repeat the position while the hands take turns.

16. Squat Reach and Jump

How to Perform: 

  • Do a normal squat.
  • Immediately jump up.
  • Reach your arms (with weights) straight above your head.
  • Aim for at least 15 reps. 

17. Single-Leg Deadlift

This exercise will offer you similar benefits as the deadlift with additional work on your core. 

How to Perform: 

  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Rest your weight on your right foot with a soft knee.
  • Hinge forward at the waist and raise up your left leg behind you.
  • Keep your chest and backbone straight.
  • Bend forward until your left leg is parallel to the ground.

18. Side Plank

Side plank is a very useful exercise for core muscle strengthening

How to Perform: 

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  • Lie on the ground with your face up.
  • Roll to the side and come up onto one foot and elbow.
  • Make sure your hips are lifted, and your core is engaged. 

19. Bulgarian Split Squat

As a cross-sectional exercise, a study shows that the Bulgarian split squat enhances lower body muscle activities. 

How to Perform:

  • Stand about 2 feet before a chair or a step
  • Rest the top of one of your foot on the surface with the other one not too far out 
  • Brace your core, chest forward, lower down the leg you are standing on and bend your knee.
  • Stop when your thigh is parallel to the ground and repeat. 

20. Bench Press

The bench press is one of the top free weight exercises. It helps to strengthen the upper body as well as the entire body. 

How to Perform: 

  • Lie flat on your back on a bench.
  • Position the barbel at chest level
  • Grip the barbell shoulder-width apart.
  • Brace your core and engage your shoulder.
  • Inhale and push the Barbell up off the rack, then lower it until it touches your chest.

21. Dumbbell Front Squat

This is a specialized type of squat that is focused more on the quads.

The weight will be shifted more to your front, thus requiring more core strength. 

How to Perform:

  • Stand feet apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Bend your elbow and bring the weights to rest on your shoulders.
  • Squat, sit back in your hips.
  • Push up through your heels to start again.


Choose a goal today and select the most appropriate level for you. You’ll begin to notice some drastic changes in your body.

Remember that you can still revisit the beginner and intermediate levels even after making it to the advanced stage. Related: How to Lose Weight Fast (Science-Backed Steps)

These 21 free weight exercises are beneficial to your health and fitness.