Hand weights can help tone your smaller muscles.
While big-time bodybuilders may not find much use for 5-lb. hand weights, the more typical exerciser can put smaller weights to good use. If you're traveling, for example, you probably won't be lugging barbells, or even a larger set of dumbbells, through airports and hotels. But you can tuck a pair of 5-lb. dumbbells into your suitcase and get in a workout before or after a day of sight-seeing. Used wisely, those small hand weights can do a big job on your body.
For most exercisers, lifting five pounds isn't very challenging. If you only have a pair of 5-lb. hand weights you can double the intensity by holding both weights in one hand. Perform exercises such as curls, rows and presses with one arm lifting 10 pounds of weight, then repeat the exercises with the opposite arm.
Hit Smaller Muscles
Exercises with 5-lb. weights typically won't challenge your larger muscle groups, but you can focus your hand-weight workout on smaller muscles in your upper body. For example, work the smaller upper-back muscles -- such as the rhomboids and rear deltoids -- by doing shoulder press progressions. Stand straight with your upper arms parallel with the floor and extended to the side, and your forearms vertical. Begin with the weights about forehead high and your palms facing forward, then press the weights overhead until your arms are straight. After 30 seconds, lower your arms so they're straight in front of you, with your palms facing your upper thighs. Row the weights straight up to your upper chest. Continue for 30 seconds, then conclude with 30 seconds of lateral raises. Hold the hand weights by your sides, with your palms facing your body, then lift your arms until they're horizontal at shoulder height. Keep your arms straight throughout the lateral raise exercise.
Using light hand weights allows you to combine several movements at once, since you typically don't have to work hard to keep 5-lb. weights stable. Combination exercises also help you perform a total-body workout. Work your upper and lower body simultaneously by doing the lunge and side raise. Perform a standard lunge with your arms at your sides and a 5-lb. weight in each hand. As you rise to the starting position, lift your arms to the sides, horizontally. Combine a single-leg deadlift with a biceps curl by performing the standard single-leg deadlift, then doing a biceps curl when you're standing straight.
Opinions differ regarding the benefits of walking while holding hand weights. Swinging the weights raises your walk's intensity and helps you burn more calories. But using 5-lb. weights may do more harm than good. The American Council on Exercise advises against carrying weights greater than 3 pounds to avoid injuring your arms and shoulders.