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Gym Fitness

How Do I Know How Much Weight to Use?

Published: 9/22/14

Weights are an important and crucial element of getting in shape and should be incorporated into your workout routine. But how do you know how much your body can and should be lifting? And how do you figure out where to start – and how and when to increase your weight size? It’s different for everyone and depends completely on your body type, gender, age, weight, and fitness goals, so we highly recommend the help of a personal trainer to teach you how to use weights correctly for your specific body type. In the meantime, here are some other basic guidelines and rules to help you learn some of the ropes of weight lifting and get you started with weights.

The most important part about weight training and lifting is form! If you don’t have the proper form down, do not attempt to lift even the smallest weight; doing so could result in an injury, and unless you’re okay with that, and by default, okay with putting a big damper on your workout and getting in shape, get your form down first.

Now it’s time to warm up. Remember that warm-ups are absolutely necessary and should not be skipped. You can actually warm up using the same bar you’ll be lifting with later on, just without any weights on it. Start with just the bar to help your body acclimate and prime the muscles. When you’re done warming up, add the weights to the bar. Determine how much weight to add by how heavy the bar feels to you; if it already felt pretty heavy, try just adding 2.5lbs to each side. Add weights ranging anywhere from 2.5 to 10lbs to each side and then do about 5 reps. As mentioned earlier, the amount of weight you should use and how many reps to do depends entirely on your body structure, however, some common rep ranges for beginners are 5 sets of 5, 3 sets of 8, or 3 sets of 10.

We can’t stress it enough: form matters! If you completed these reps successfully, and without losing proper form or slowing down, you can add more weights to both sides of the bar. Add 2.5, 5, or 10lbs (10 lbs if the prior weight felt too light) to either side and repeat the exercise. You’ll continue doing this trial of weight size until you feel your form break down and your speed and movement decrease. Keep in mind that your starting point may be lower than you expected.

So you’ve got your starting point; now what? You will begin with this weight and add to it to continuously build your strength and endurance. As with everything fitness related, you have to push your body and its limits in order for it to change. You’ll always need to increase something in your workout, and for weight training that means your weights. The good news is that for beginners, this will probably happen in every workout. Use the same tactic you did to find your first set weight, and keep track of and expand your weight lifting abilities. If the weight you used last time was extremely difficult, keep working with those weights. If, on the other hand, you felt unchallenged, add a few pounds this time and see how you feel. You should also monitor the amount of reps you did successfully and where it was you felt yourself breaking down; these are indicators for where you should start next time and where to focus this time.

The point is improvement. Even if you stayed at the same weight as you did last time, if you felt yourself getting better in form and technique, you’re improving and thus, getting stronger. Challenge, explore, and monitor your body, we promise that you’ll be quite impressed and surprised by all that it can do, and before you know it you’ll be a weightlifting champ!