Which set of dumbbells do you choose during a workout? How much weight do you add to an exercise machine? Which kettlebell should you pick up? It can be confusing to determine how much weight you should be lifting. And the answer isn’t as simple as you might have hoped for. It all depends on some factors.
Let’s go over a few of these variables to help better you decide how much weight you should be lifting during your next workout:
- Form: Quality form should always trump quantity. Far too many of us pick up a weight that’s too heavy, whether because of our ego, peer pressure or unfamiliarity with personal limits. Err on the side of safety and being able to execute the movement with a full range of motion and proper form. With patience and practice, you’ll be able to increase the weight in no time at all.
- Goals: If you’re in a group exercise class and will be performing hundreds of repetitions for an hour, I’d suggest avoiding heavy weight. Pick a weight with which you can safely perform at least 15 reps on average and know that you can modify this weight during the class. If you want to increase strength and make changes to your physique, don’t be afraid to add weight progressively to your program. (Ladies, it’s incredibly difficult for us to bulk up.) For muscle growth to occur, the muscle needs to be placed under a certain amount of tension; this typically requires a weight with which you can only perform six to 12 reps at a time. If you want to increase strength and power, you can integrate heavier weights in smaller rep schemes. Many people benefit by manipulating variables such as sets, repetitions and tempo.
- Progress: Too many people stick to lifting the same weights every week. For example, they always grab 15 pounds when they perform bicep curls or put 45-pound plates on their barbell during a squatting session. If you want to see quicker changes to your body, pay attention to what you’re doing each week and monitor your progress. Challenge your body as it gets stronger and more capable; with experience and better body control you’ll be able to play around more with weights of all sizes. It’s always a good idea to write down the weights you choose, take physical measurements, and look back on your workouts over the past couple of months. This can help you choose how much weight you should be lifting and what your body best responds to!