How Much Weight Should I Use In My Workout?
Fitness programs that incorporate a resistance component (IE- lifting weights) are a great way to sculpt your body. They torch fat and help break up cardio monotony. They’re also great ways to build strength, confidence, and some great momentum. The benefits of resistance training are a primary reason Kubex incorporates so many resistance machines and exercises into our sequences.
That said, a very common question for many people just starting to add a little “iron” to their fitness diet is “How much do I start with?”
It’s entirely subjective.
In other words, it’s all up to you– a choice based on your current strength level and what you CAN lift while maintaining proper form.
Don’t get us wrong– we’ve seen people lift “impressive” weight… but they look like they’re going to break their back or blow a gasket while doing it. That’s not what you’re after! (Unless you like pinched nerves, slipped discs, and pain in uncomfortable places…)
How To Pick The Right Weight For Your Workout
With the general idea of picking the right weight being “It’s your choice,” you’re probably thinking “What kind of lame, sandbagging answer is that!?”
C’moooon, you didn’t think we’d leave you hanging with that touchy-feely, non-committal suggestion, would you? Heck no.
Determine Your Reps
You’ll need to start your weight selection by determining your reps. Our sequences walk you through this aspect but depending on your fitness goal, you may want to differentiate the weight you’re pushing/pulling to your workout routine to build endurance, hypertrophy, strength, or power. Once you know which one of these you want, you can determine your reps. Refer to the following chart to determine your reps:
|Fitness Goal||Reps||Effort Level (1-10)||Weight|
Proper Form is the ONLY Form
Before officially selecting a weight, make sure to practice the lift so you master its form. You might find this silly, but if you can’t flawlessly do a lift with no weights, you definitely won’t be able to do it with weights.
Having the right form is key to building muscle and preventing injury. Most machines are designed to stabilize the back and isolate the muscle you’re trying to work. Still, practice doing the reps slowly without “cheating” (like swinging your arms, bouncing, or using momentum). By slowly using the correct form, you are isolating your muscle and forcing it to strengthen up.
Failing is Your Only Option
For the “toned” physique most people are after, the trick to picking the right weight is to learn to fail. That’s right. You want to fail. Failure MUST be an option. (Of course, we’re not talking about failing your program, we’re talking about failing at a certain number of reps). So for those wanting to build strength and tone up, that would mean on reps 8-10, you are having to will your muscle to move that weight. If you’re getting up into the 12-15+ rep range, time to increase your weight.
It’s not easy. It buuuurns. The idea is in that 8-10 rep range, you simply can’t push or pull your selected weight without losing form (arching back, bringing in other muscle groups to help, etc). When you get to this point, that’s the “be proud of yourself” failure. And when picking the right weight to start with, failure with good form brings success.
Your Weight Selection Will Vary
As you select the weight you want to start with, keep in mind that different muscle groups will be stronger than others: Shoulders may be able to lift more than your biceps. Chest more than both biceps and shoulders. Legs more than any other muscle group.
If it’s your first time and your fitness goal is to build strength, you’ll be testing things out with each exercise. If you can punch out 10 reps and still have “gas in the tank,” then you need to up your weight a bit. On the flip side, if you’re breaking down at just a few reps, you’re probably lifting too heavy.
After all, what we’re trying to do here is put your muscles under enough tension that they finally fail. When the muscle fails, it has this amazing ability to fix itself up (which is why rest is so important) and return ready to face that weight again and CONQUER IT.
The way you improve, gain strength, tone muscle, and potentially build mass, is to then increase the weight over time and make those muscles fail again. The fancy term for this is called “progressive overload.”
Progressive overload is why you see such great results out of people who stick to weight-lifting programs and write their weight and reps down. This allows them to beat the previous week (or PR)… and when you do that, your body changes– ultimately giving you the look you want.
Of course, there ARE exceptions to the rule- like when you’re trying to build endurance in a program: You’ll do a lot of reps in sequence, so you need to pick a weight that’s going to allow you to reach that end/rep count. Even so, you still want to get close to outright failure. Also, if your fitness goal is to build power by doing heavier weights and fewer reps, you’ll want to come closer to failure.
You Are Your Best Competition
Make sure you are adjusting your weights according to YOU and your body’s capabilities. Under no circumstances should you ever change your weight program to match that of someone else you see.
When your body is ready, you’ll know. Make sure you document your weights, sets, reps, and how well you complete them. You can’t measure your goals or improvement if you’re not tracking your progress.
So how much weight should you start with?
The answer’s easy–it’s the amount that’s right for you. It doesn’t matter if it’s 5 lbs. or 100 lbs. Your body will let you know what works. Listen to it.
After that… it’s consistency and persistence to the new you!