Whether you are lifting weights to lose weight or want to get stronger, one of the first things you want to know is how heavy you should lift. The answer, of course, is it depends on your goals. But to begin with, you need to know how to find out where to start.
If you’re new to strength training, use the technique below to find the right weight and try this strength training workout for beginners. If you’ve been putting off getting into the gym, learn more about why you shouldn’t avoid strength training. Having trouble getting started? We’ve all been there, sometimes we need a little motivation to kick-start our fitness goals.
Simple Trick for Finding How Much Weight to Lift
When I begin strength training or come back from a “break,” this simple trick is the best way I’ve found to choose my starter weight. It’s tempting to grab what you think you can lift or should be able to lift, but that’s how accidents happen.
My simple, non-scientific way is pretty straightforward and foolproof. Pick up a dumbbell in one hand and test it out. Can you do a bicep curl? Yes? Keep going until you find the heaviest one that you can still do a bicep curl with. Now I’m going to give you the formula to use to find out what weight you should use.
For example, if you can do a bicep curl with a 15-pound weight but can’t even lift a 20 pounder, then 15 pounds is the weight you will use to base your bicep curl rep weight on.
The math goes like this: 65% of 15 pounds is 9.75 pounds. So, since there is no 9.75-pound weight at the gym, try a 10 pounder for your reps. Use this formula to find the right weight for doing triceps, squats, and other exercises.
Find Your Goals: Increase Strength or Build Muscle
How many reps you do is just as important as how heavy you lift. For example, if you want to get stronger, do 10 reps per set. If you want to build muscle, do 12-20 reps per set. And if you want a combination of strength and endurance, do 10-15 reps per set. Use the same formula.
There are many benefits to lifting light weights, including improving your range of motion and improving heart health. Then this may be the way to go for you. With light weights, you can also improve your form and focus on your target muscle, so this is a good place for anyone to start.
Although you can build the same amount of strength with light weights as you can with heavy ones, it takes longer. So, if gaining strength is your goal, sooner or later, you are going to have to get into heavyweight territory.
Machine Weights vs. Free Weights
The free weights vs. machines debate has been going in on in gyms since they began, probably. If you’re trying to decide which one to choose, consider the advantages of each.
Advantages of Free Weights
- Recruits your core
- Engages stabilizing muscles
- Requires neurological coordination
- Burns more calories
Advantages of Machines
- Targeted isolation of muscles
- No spotter needed
- Ideal for beginners
When to Bump Up the Weight?
The goal is to challenge the muscles, so if the exercise or movement becomes too easy, it’s time to bump it up. You should be feeling a moderate to significant challenge at the end of your reps. If you can barely do the last rep of the previous set, then it’s not time. But if you’re doing sets of 10-12 reps and the last few reps are not too difficult, then it’s time to move up to the next weight.