If you’re like a lot of people, the free weight section of the gym is an unfamiliar and somewhat scary place. Lots of OVER SIZED people making loud noises and banging around heavy metal things.

But if you look closer, you’ll find a genial group of fitness-minded people and one of the best places in the gym to tone up and lose weight. But where to start? Start with weights that are well within your ability level, so that you can focus on the form and not worry about injury. Here are a few free weight exercises to get you started:

Bench press – This is the classic exercise in free weights that works chest and back muscles. Put the weights on each end with a clamp to hold them in place (don’t worry the bar won’t flip as you put weights on one end). Lay on the bench with the bar even with your nipples. Place your hands about shoulder width apart. Make sure you have someone to help you put the bar back on in the event you can’t (called a spotter). Lift the bar off the rack and lower to chest level.

Bicep curl—Another classic. You can either use a straight bar, an EZ-bar (which has different bends in it) or dumbbells (which can be held separately in each hand). With your palms facing outward, start with the bar with your arms fully extended downward. Curl the bar up until your hands nearly reach your shoulders, then slowly lower the bar.

Triceps extension – You can do this exercise either standing up or laying down. Best to use a dumbbell for this one, and only work one arm at a time. If standing, raise your arm with the weight straight overhead. Lower the weight behind your head, taking care of keep your elbow in one place and not using your shoulder muscle to cheat. Switch arms after each set.

Lateral raises – This exercise works your back and arm muscles. Use must use dumbbells with this one. With the weights in each hand and arms extended downward, lift your arms straight out from your sides. Stop when your arms are level with your shoulders. It’s like you are a bird with very heavy wings. Slowly lower the weights to the starting position and repeat.

These are just a few of the exercises you can do with free weights, but there are dozens and dozens more than can have you toned and looking fit in no time.

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