Your Exercise Solution SM
Fitness That Fits You

Free Weights

Free weights are used for building strength, stability and power. Included in this category are dumbbells, barbells, weight plates, medicine balls, kettlebells and others. Unlike weight machines, they do not constrain you to specific, fixed movements, and therefore require more effort from your stabilizer muscles. Lifting weights provides numerous benefits to help manage your arthritis pain, and is a key component of overall health and fitness for everyone. Strength training keeps muscles around affected joints strong, it lubricates joints, decreases bone loss, helps control your weight, boosts your stamina, contributes to better balance, and helps control joint swelling and pain. Joint pain, stiffness, weakness, instability or deformity can make some movements and positions used in weight training difficult. You may need to modify the exercises you do or the equipment you use.


Specific modifications will depend on your joints affected, but you may consider the following.

  • Gloves, handle over-grips and weightlifting straps can help with grip if you have hand arthritis.
  • Strengthen both the quads (front thigh muscles) and the hamstrings (back thigh muscles) to avoid muscle imbalance at the knee.
  • Do partial movements if the full range of motion is painful (for example, ¼ squats or box squats instead of full-range squats).


  • The general rule of thumb if you have arthritis is “lighter weights and higher repetitions” to prevent a flare.
  • Use slow, smooth movements when you lift and lower a weight. If you are breaking correct form, the weight is too heavy.


  • Start by doing the movements without any weights.
  • Add weight, repetitions, sets and additional exercises as you are able.

This is general free weights information. Get personalized results, with specific modifications and tips customized to your problem joints and level of fitness.