Comprehensive Free Weight Guide, Everything you Need to Know About Free Weights: Dumbbells, Olympic Plates, Kettlebells, Olympic Bars, and Bumper Plates

Comprehensive Free Weight Guide, Everything you Need to Know About Free Weights: Dumbbells, Olympic Plates, Kettlebells, Olympic Bars, and Bumper Plates

It can be daunting to approach the gym to weight train for the first time. You may be wondering, “How much weight should I use,” “How do I incorporate weights into my workouts,” Or “ What if I’m using free weights wrong?” Well do not worry, we are here to help. Here we will break down the different types of free weights. We will tell you what you will need to know when starting out training with free weights, which components you will need for an at-home gym, and we will include some basic free weight exercises to work out your lower body and some free weight training exercises that you can incorporate into a cross-fit workout.


There are many valuable qualities of training with free weights. They offer a limitless range of motion, allowing for easy movement. As free weights offer a full range of motion, using free weights develops muscle stabilization as the body must activate stabilizer muscles to help maintain balance while performing free weight training exercises.


Let’s break down the different types of Free Weights.



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Dumbbells are handheld free weights, with a handle and matching weight attached to both ends. They typically range from around one pound to 25 pounds.  They are cost effective, space effective, and many of the exercises you perform with dumbbells are close to bodyweight exercises, so they are a great way for beginners to weight train and to slowly build up to Barbells and heavier weight training. They are the best weights to start out with.


Dumbbells offer a great range of motion (ROM) and thus utilize more “stabilizer muscles” than barbells. With dumbbells the possibilities are pretty much endless. They can be added to bodyweight exercises to make them more difficult and to build strength. However, to build larger muscles, and to provide your muscles with a maximum overload option, you’ll want to consider Olympic Plates.


Olympic Plates

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Olympic Plates are the only plates used in competition. They are more adaptable than traditional steel plates. Training with Olympic plates often focuses on larger muscle groups and gives you the option of higher weights than you would have with dumbbells. Lifting with Olympic Plates is a great way to maximize strength and increase muscle size. Olympic Plates are primarily used with Olympic bars.


Olympic Bars

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Olympic Bars are more adaptable than traditional bars, more stable, and can hold more weight. They are used as a weight lifting option where the bars do not bend over time, and thus do not complicate lifts. Olympic bars are more adaptable than traditional steel weights and bars, as they have reduced torque. The ends of Olympic bars have revolving ends that roll independently of the bar. This reduces the torque during specific lifts where the weights are prone to spinning. Olympic bars often include grip plates which are convenient built in handles to prevent sliding.


Bumper Plates

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Bumper Plates are Olympic sized plates made of thick dense rubber. They allow the athlete to drop the loaded Olympic bar from an overhead position without the risk of damaging the lifting platform, the bar, or the plates themselves.


These plates are only needed for Olympic lifts, but can be used to reduce noise and vibration in deadlifts as well. They are softer for a home gym as they won’t smash through your foundation, or crack and chip if you accidentally drop them.



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Kettlebells are an excellent way to increase core strength and target muscles that dumbbells and barbells can’t reach. They consist of a bell, handle, and “horns”. They are harder to control than dumbbells, thus incorporating more core strength, stricter form, and more muscle activation.


Kettlebells encourage precision, because you can more easily tell when a part of the exercise is off. These pave the way to perform more advanced exercises properly. When you train with a kettlebell, your core has to work harder to stabilize the weight and this builds improved athleticism.


Kettlebells are easy to travel with as they won’t roll around your car. You only need a single kettlebell for a good workout, not a selection, so they are a great first addition to an at-home gym.


At-Home Gym Essentials

You don’t need a lot of space for an at-home gym. You can build one in your garage. The most important thing is to make sure that you have a solid concrete floor or to reinforce and cover the floor if it is wood. Here is a list of the at-home gym essentials that you need to cover the basics of your at-home workouts.

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  1. Barbell and set of Bumper Weight Plates

Barbell and Olympic weight training is an earned right and should only be implemented after the athlete has a foundation of strength training from calisthenics, dumbbells, and kettlebells with proper movement and execution. That being said, they are a staple of any home gym as they build maximum strength and muscle size.

A good gym should start with a quality Olympic bar and set of bumper weights. If you have an interest in Olympic lifts down the road, it makes sense to go for the bumper weights. Even if your current workout doesn’t necessitate them, by investing in them now you can have that option down the road, and they aren’t much more expensive than steel plates.


  1. Pull-Up Bar

These take up little to no space. Pull-ups are one of the best upper body development exercises with few substitutions.


  1. Squat Rack

You cannot do many rep schemes without a way to hold your barbells off the ground to start and end your lifts. You also simply cannot move as much weight without it. Accessories can increase its utility to make the most of this more spacious home gym element.


  1. 1-2 Kettlebells

 You only need a single kettlebell for an entire workout, as opposed to a range of dumbbells, so this is a must for your at-home gym. If you’re just starting out you could work with just one kettlebell. If you’re looking for the comprehensive at-home gym experience, opt for two, one with a heavier weight for muscle building.


  1. A Sandbag

Grab a shell and fill it to 60 pounds for females, and 80 pounds for males. The best material for the ideal weight and bulk is to use a mix of sand and rubber mulch.


On a limited budget you can get everything that you need for your at-home gym by buying pre-owned equipment here from us at Buy and Sell Fitness.


Exercises with Free Weights to Work out Your Lower Body (Beginner-Advanced)

  1. Weighted Squats
  2. Weighted Reverse Lunges
  3. Weighted Stationary Lunges
  4. Weighted Side Lunges
  5. Toe Raise
  6. Weighted Hamstring Curl
  7. Weight Split Squat

Using Free Weights for CrossFit Workouts (Beginner-Advanced)

With Dumbbells

  1. Dumbbell thrusts
  2. Dumbbell walking lunges
  3. Dumbbell snatches
  4. Dumbbell Swings
  5. Dumbbell Deadlifts
  6. Single arm dumbbell snatches

With Kettlebells

  1. Kettlebell Swings
  2. Kettlebell rows
  3. Goblet Squat
  4. One arm overhead squat
  5. Turkish Get-up
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