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How Much Weight Should You Use?

The question of 'how much weight to lift' can be frustrating for beginners and advanced lifters alike. With different rep ranges recommended in various workouts, it's hard to know whether to use a weight for 8 reps or 12 reps, and if the same weight should be used for every set.




However, research suggests that building muscle or burning fat can be achieved with heavy or lighter weights as long as intensity is pushed near the point of failure. (E.g. 5 reps at a heavier weight or 20 reps at a lighter weight.)


Figuring out the right weight is a process that requires identifying how to push the boundaries of intensity while prioritizing safety. When starting a new program, it's okay to focus on mastering the movement rather than the weight used. You'll very quickly feel if something is too heavy or too light for what you are trying to do!


Using a method of picking a weight you can complete for more reps than recommended and assessing how many reps you can do on the final set can help determine the right weight. Here are the key 🔑 points to remember:

  • If you're within 1-2 reps of the goal range, that's a good starting weight

  • If you can do more than two reps above the range, add more weight to your next workout

  • If you fall more than two reps short of the range, drop the weight on your next workout

This method can be used to find the right starting weight and ensure the right intensity for optimal results. As time goes on in a program, small improvements can be made each workout by going up in weight when easily hitting the rep range on the first or second set. The focus should be on building a routine, improving, and pushing forward, and the results will come.


BONUS TIP: Remember that bigger muscle groups should generally be able to push more weight. For example, if you can bench press 10lb dumbbells in each hand 🤚 (which uses your chest & tricep muscles), then you should be able to hold at least 20lbs for a goblet squat (quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings). Smaller muscles like biceps, shoulders, and abs will resist even less weight.


Next time you start a new fitness program from an app, trainer, or online and find yourself asking "how heavy should my dumbbells be?", remember this blog post from your friendly adaptive & inclusive coach, Dibs!

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