For those beginning weight lifting, one of the first questions that people have is “How much weight should I lift?” The answer? It depends. The real question should be “How much CAN I lift? When you’re performing each set you should be struggling to get through the last 2-3 reps. If they’re too easy for you, you need to increase the weight or number of reps you’re performing.
If you don’t progress your training, your muscles aren’t going to progress either which means no real results for you. Meaning, your muscles won’t get stronger and you won’t see more definition either.
How Much Weight Should I Lift?
Before we can really answer this question, you need to think about what your weight training goal is.
- To Build Strength: 3 to 8 reps
- To Increase Muscle Density (Tone): 8 to 12 reps
- To Build Muscular Endurance: 12 to 25 reps
Although these numbers may vary by a couple of digits depending on who you ask, it’s a great starting point. In general, the lower the reps the higher the weight and vice versa. It’s a good idea to switch it up every few weeks. You don’t need to lift heavy every single workout. It’s perfectly okay to lift heavy for a few weeks and then switch to a mid-range weight or light weights from time to time.
Now, let’s say that you want to follow a program that advises you to perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions. This means you need to choose a weight that you think you can perform 10 reps with. (It’s pretty much a guessing game at first.)
Let’s say you decide to try for 35# on the barbell bench press.
If you can’t do a total of 10 reps at all, then you need to lower the weight until you can perform all 10 reps. However, if you can easily do 10 reps then you’ll need to increase the weight so that your muscles are really challenged by the last couple reps.
When you’re first starting out it can take a workout or 2 before you’re really in the “sweet spot”. All you need to remember is that your workouts should never be easy. You should always find the last few reps to be a little challenging or you’ll never progress – even when you’re lifting “light”.
After you’ve been working out a few weeks you’ll notice that you’re getting stronger and your muscles will adapt to the weight you’re lifting and it will become easier. When this happens, it’s time to increase weight and/or reps to keep your muscles challenged. This is the only way that you’ll be able to progress and get the results you’re looking for!