Staring at a rack of dumbbells, unsure about which one to choose? We’ve all been there. This short guide will help you pick the correct weight for your goals and fitness level!
How heavy you lift has a lot to do with your goals and experience level. It will vary for every person, every exercise, and every workout.
But there are still some common sense guidelines you can follow to help you figure out how to maximize both the safety and the effectiveness of your workouts!
The short answer is: Muscle growth does not necessarily depend on the amount of weight you lift. As long as you lift heavy enough to challenge yourself and use proper form, you should build muscle and strength.
And no, ladies, lifting heavy enough to feel challenging will not make you “bulky.” On the contrary, lifting too light is a surefire way to make your workouts less effective for all goals!
Think effort and form, not numbers
Before you even think about how much weight you should lift — you need to focus on PROPER FORM!
Male or female, you should work hard enough to send your body a loud and clear message to change while not pushing yourself beyond where you can recover from—or hurting yourself. Not every rep should be easy. But not every rep should be hard, either!
The key to finding this balance is slowing down, being patient, and not letting your ego decide how much weight to lift.
Keep in mind that “heavy” is individual. Heavy for one person could be 5lbs, and for another, it could be 100lbs. Don’t focus on that.
All you need to do is use proper form and lift heavy enough to challenge yourself on some of your reps. Then ever so often (every week or even every couple of weeks), increase the weight, number of reps, or number of sets. You could also push just a little closer to “muscle failure,” or the point where you can’t do another rep.
These are all forms of what is known as progressive overload.
Let Your Workout Rep Range Guide You
A good rule to help you pick weights is to aim to perform all the reps and sets prescribed with proper form, but make each set progressively more challenging.
Here is what this could look like…
Aim to make the first set kinda easy— like you feel you probably have a solid 4-5 reps left in the tank. Wait 60-90 seconds, and then add a little weight, so you have about 3 reps left in the tank.
Now you’re warmed up and breathing a little harder.
Rest another 60-90 seconds, and do a third set. This time, only leave a couple reps in the tank. Rest again On that final set, keep repping until you’re pretty sure you don’t have another rep in you.
If you only managed 5, you probably went a bit too heavy. Got 12-15 or more? You went too light. No problem; just write it in your workout log and remember it for next week.
Trial and error, paying attention to your body, and keeping a workout log are the essential techniques to help you pick your ideal weight range when lifting weights. Because if you’re doing things right, that weight range will change over time!
And yes… you can build muscle using nothing like your body weight.
Thousands of V Shred customers have totally transformed their bodies by pushing the intensity of bodyweight movements like you can find in our at-home program MOVE.
Even if you never pick up a single weight, you can learn a lot about how to find that “this feels heavy, but I can handle it” sweet spot. As a bonus, each workout is 20 minutes or less!
Keep Growing and Transforming
As your fitness level progresses, so should your workouts! Remember the key to building muscle is to challenge them over and over again. Fitness results happen over the course of weeks and months, not a single workout–no matter how good that workout is!
If you are struggling to make it to the gym, need an extra push to get in those reps you know you have in you somewhere, and lift heavier, you have options beyond simply “dig deep and tough it out.” Take a quality pre-workout like PRE by Sculpt Nation about 15-30 minutes before hitting the weight room, and don’t be surprised if “heavy” feels just a little lighter.
If you’re someone who looks at a workout chart and sees a foreign language, please don’t give up. We have a team of certified personal trainers who can build a custom workout plan that works for your experience level and the equipment you have— even if it’s no equipment!
If you are interested in one-on-one coaching, click the link above or email firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know you’re interested.
Are you ready to push yourself in the weight room and build muscle? Then try Vince’s legendary Clean Bulk program! This 90-day gym-based program is engineered to add maximum lean tissue with as little fat as possible, and come with a targeted meal plan to match. Warning: You will need a new wardrobe!