Whether you’re hitting the gym to lose weight, build muscle, increase your performance, or anything else, choosing the correct weights is crucial to meet your goals. Still, it is one of the most common concerns among those who are just starting to lift.
Choosing the correct weights isn’t easy. You want a good balance of a weight that’s heavy enough to challenge your muscles, yet not so heavy that it compromises your form. Here are some general tips and rules to help you choose the correct weight for your next workout.
How to determine if the weights you use are too light or too heavy?
There is no one-fits-all rule when it comes to choosing the correct weights. That means you’re going to have to experiment. The best way to go about it would be to go from a lighter weight and move on up until you find your sweet spot. Then, write down the weight you used for the exercise, so you know what weight to pick up next time.
So, how to know if the weights are too light? The best indicator is if you feel like you could do infinite reps without taking a break. Even if it’s not infinite, if you can easily do more reps than your program suggests, it means the weights are too light. For example, if you planned to do 12 reps, those last four reps should be very hard to complete.
If the weight is too heavy, you won’t be able to do all 12 reps with the correct form. Proper form is crucial for hitting the correct muscles, and other muscles will try to compensate if you’re lifting too heavy. Bad form also means you could injure yourself.
The bad form also includes you not being able to perform the full exercise. For example, using momentum to bring the weight back up during bicep curls or not going deep enough in a squat.
It all depends on your goals
From the previous paragraphs, you can see the key thing to know to find your ideal weight is reps. The weight that’s too heavy for 12 reps might be just right for 5 reps, and a weight that’s easy to do for 20 reps might be perfect for 12 reps.
Therefore, you will need to decide on your rep range in order to easily determine the correct weights for you. There are many discussions about the perfect rep range among professionals, but these are details you shouldn’t worry about too much. There is a generally accepted rep range for each major goal, and these are:
- Beginners who are focusing on maintaining fitness and losing weight can have a goal of doing 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps. Choose weights that allow you to do all three sets without struggling.
- Up to 5 sets of 3 to 5 reps are best for building strength. Choose a weight that makes each repetition challenging, but start this type of training only after you’ve established proper form.
- For building muscle, you can go for three to four sets of 8 to 12 repetitions with a moderate load, meaning you will struggle with the last few reps. When you’re advanced, you can do up to 6 sets using a weight that challenges you through every rep.
- Rep ranges above 12 are ideal for activating and warming up your muscles
Another thing that will help you determine the correct weight is the type of exercise. You can lift much more weight with compound movements, such as squat and bench press, than with exercises that focus on a single muscle group.
Finally, you can always ask a personal trainer to help you determine your weights for the first gym session. For a small fee, you’ll be able to use correct weights from the first gym session.