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Beginning Dumbbell Workout for SS

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I'm an 18-year-old girl who is 4'11 and 90lbs. I just got a membership at my local YMCA and am interested in building strength through a beginner's program (i.e., Starting Strength). However, since I am not yet strong enough to do barbell work, I have been using dumbbells to work out, and I'm finding it difficult to make progress within some of the exercises I'm doing.


Currently, I alternate between these two workouts:


Workout A:

3x5 Goblet Squat (35lbs)

3x5 Dumbbell "Bench Press" (15lbs each arm)

1x5 Single-Dumbbell Deadlift (45lbs) 


Workout B

3x5 Goblet Squat (35 lbs)

3x5 Dumbbell Overhead Press (12lbs each arm)

2x5 (each side) Dumbbell Rows (12lbs each arm) 



I have been making progress in the deadlift (30lbs to 45lbs in 2 weeks, although I started light), but, for the most part, I find the 5-10lb jump in progression to be too heavy.


Let me know what you guys think. Any advice or feedback is appreciated. 





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Your numbers look very normal for a woman of your height and weight. And it sounds like you're making good progress.

Your issue is also very normal -- I have helped female friends through SS and a lot of them needed some kind of solution for the exact same problem. Here are a couple things you can do.

1. The concept of micro-loading is something you'll become very familiar with, especially as you become more experienced. Basically you just need something that weighs less than the jumps in your dumbbells, so you can attach it to the DBs. That way you'll have some extra options for intermediate steps. Here's what I would do if I were trying to solve a problem of a 10lb jump: I'd go to Home Depot and have them cut me two lengths of chain, each of which weigh about 2.5lbs. I'd get 2 clips for them there also. Then, at the gym, I'd clip each of them around my DB handles. Voila, you've increased your weight by only 5 lbs and only spent a couple bucks.

2. You can start adding reps to each set every workout. Eg, next workout try for 3x6, then 3x7, etc. No equipment required, and in short order you can switch back to 3x5 at a heavier dumbbell. Bodyweight trainees do this all the time to fill in the gaps in our exercise progressions, which can have big jumps in difficulty.

3. You can actually switch to Bodyweight training for a bit if that's attractive to you. Once you can do a few push-ups, you should be able to bench press an empty barbell.

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Cowardly Assassin
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