Workout Wednesday: Dumbbell Video

Here is the third installment of my postings about SweatBetes exercise videos for people with diabetes, Ginger Vieira and I talk about my first attempt at using the dumbbell weight video.

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Okay, so my first week of SweatBetes was a mixed bag. I managed to do two exercise sessions, not the three I planned. My body felt looser after each exercise session and I felt more energetic overall. I didn’t feel as stiff, even on the days that I didn’t exercise. And I had more energy to get a bunch of physical chores done over the weekend. This was stuff that’s been on my to do list since forever.

Here are my notes from today’s workout, my first session with dumbbells.

  • Late afternoon, between lunch and dinner
  • Start BG 184; drank 4 oz of water
  • 20 mins SweatBetes strength training w 2 lbs. dumbbells
  • Midpoint BG 171
  • 15 mins stationary bike in my target heart zone
  • Ending BG 148; drank 16 oz of water

My BG came down 36! I used a 2 lbs. weight and didn’t get to the point where I felt the burn that Ginger mentions below.

Adding the weights really had an effect on my sense of balance. I thought this workout would be easier than the body weight one because it seemed like a lot of moving my arms. But that extra weight really affected my sense of balance and made my movements feel different.

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Corinna: Hey Ginger, my first question is the obvious one. What weight dumbbell should I start with?  I have a set of 2 lbs., 3 lbs., and 5lbs. dumbbells.

Ginger: This is such a hard question to answer because even from one middle-aged woman to another, the strength you may have in one exercise compared to another woman could be remarkably different! Such as an 8 lb. dumbbell compared to a 25 lb. dumbbell! Everyone’s body’s has naturally stronger or weaker areas.

So, to stay on the safe side, choose a 5 or an 8 for the first time you do any exercise. Your 2 lb. and 3 lb. dumbbells have almost no place or use except for physical therapy types of exercises. The number one most common reason why the average person doesn’t gain any strength from their workout? The weight is too light. Ditch those 2s and 3s, and purchase some 8s and 10s!

Corinna: How do I know that I working with enough weight? How should my muscles feel while I’m exercising and afterward?

Ginger: This really has a two-part answer, because if you’re someone who hasn’t exercised in a while, you would not want to work your muscle until absolute failure. “Failure” in weightlifting implies that your muscle literally cannot do another repetition of that exercise. Instead, as a newbie, you’d want to choose a weight that feels like a moderately intense “burn” (which is simply lactic acid) in the muscle you’re working by the time you do the last 3-5 repetitions of that exercise. Overtime, you’ll be able to push yourself further and increase the weight!

Corinna: What do you think of using an “alternate” weight? You know, like a big tomato sauce can or a milk jug filled with water or sand?

Ginger: The issues with using household items are: 1) Safety: can you truly hold on to the item with a firm grip and no risk of dropping it on your head or your toes? 2) It isn’t likely you’d need the same amount of weight for everyone exercise, because different muscles will be stronger than others, so you’d need to make sure you have a very creative variety of cans or jugs in your house!

If you can make it work, go for it, but dumbbells are created to be very easy to hold during a variety of exercises, allowing your hand to firmly grip the weight safely!

Corinna: I noticed that you and Abby switched to bigger weights when you did the bend over row. How much more weight should I add? Or is it okay to use the same amount of weight?

Ginger: Everyone is different – literally, I cannot tell you how you much to use unless I was standing there with you. However, you can judge easily yourself after you do the first set. If you used an 8 lb. dumbbell for the row and you felt almost nothing (which most people would also feel because the row uses upper back muscles which are stronger than most other upper body muscles in a newbie exerciser) then you definitely need to increase the weight! On average, most newbie weightlifters can use 10-15 pounds more weight than think in exercises like the row. I’ve had many clients who were using 8 lbs in that exercise prior to working with me in the gym, but when we really looked at their strength, it was clear that they should’ve actually been using 20 lbs! Start low and build your way up until you get the moderate burning sensation in the muscle. Overtime, you can increase the weight and work towards an intensity of “failure” like we discussed in the previous question!

Corinna: I found myself smiling when I saw you favor one leg during the stiff-legged dead lift and reverse lunges. My right leg is stronger. Sometimes I hold on to a chair to keep my balance. How can I wean myself of the chair and make my left leg stronger?

Ginger: Oh, hahha, don’t even worry about it. EVERYONE–and I mean everyone—is stronger on one side of their body. I have never trained a client in the gym who wasn’t stronger on one side. Never. And it isn’t necessarily based on whether you’re right-handed or left-handed like many assume (I hear this one all the time in the gym). While our bodies appear to be symmetrical, they definitely aren’t. One leg might be centimeters longer than the other, or your pelvis is rotated more towards the right – these kinds of natural human imbalances change how much weight your body bears or how you use your body over the years, and that leads to greater strength on one side compared to the other. Just be aware of the imbalance and if you ever think it’s a truly significant variance, contact a physical therapist to have you assessed for a significant issue in your posture, etc.

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I’ll be trying out the SweatBetes videos and checking in with Ginger over the next few weeks on TuDiabetes. Join the conversation at

If you want to get your own copy of the SweatBetes videos, they are available for download at the bargain price of $5. All proceeds go to support the Big Blue Test.