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Posts tagged ‘lifting’

How much Weight should you lift?

Strength training may not be rocket science, but for the average person, figuring out the best, safest, and most effective ways to lift weights is not always the easiest thing to do. There are bunches of Utube videos, toning classes and fitness plans that you can learn from in order to reach your goals of toning up, building strength, and reshaping your body. But even if you’re following a great plan designed by a great trainer, one big question still remains: How much weight should you be lifting?

You have to take results and safety into consideration. Here is my simple way of explaining it:

1. We are all at different strength levels and the muscles throughout your body also vary in strength, right? So you might lift 15 lbs for biceps, but your shoulders can’t take that kind of weight, and as far as your legs, 15 pounds won’t feel like much. So the amount of weight you lift during one exercise could be too light or too heavy for another.

2. You need to experiment with a variety of weights to find the appropriate level for each exercise you do. Working out at a gym makes that easy, but doing so at home will take a little more space and investment. Start out with at least two, and ideally three sets of dumbbells: a light, medium and heavier set–defined by your own fitness level.

3. Guidelines to select proper weight for strength training:

Aim low. The safest and most effective thing to do if you are a beginner is to master your exercises with little to no added weight so that you can focus intensely on proper form, which is essential before you’re going to increase the weight. There is no shame in doing body weight squats, crunches, modified pushups or even “mock” bench presses or triceps extensions without added weight. Slowly begin to incorporate weights, starting with your lightest weights, only after you have mastered the moves without weight.

Go slow. If you have to move at jackrabbit speed or harness momentum to lift the weight, it is simply too heavy. It’s that simple. The proper weight will allow you to move in a slow, controlled manner.

Never sacrifice form for function. You might want to fast track your results by picking a heavy weight, but lifting more weight should never trump doing it correctly. If you can’t do the exercise properly, then the added weight is not doing you any favors and may actually increase your risk for serious injury.

Count your reps. In general, you are lifting the right amount of weight when you can perform 8-15 repetitions in good form. Once you get strong enough to do more than 15 repetitions more easily, it’s probably time to increase the weight again.

Work to fatigue. This is the #1 key for selecting the proper weight. The weight you lift should not only meet the guidelines for form above, but should also challenge your muscles! The only way strength training is really going to benefit you is for you to overload your muscles—that means working them to fatigue. The weight you select should be challenging enough to fatigue your muscles within 8-15 repetitions.

So the weight you pick should

(1) be moderately challenging: not so heavy that you can’t lift it with proper form and control, and not so light that you could lift it forever,

(2) fatigue your muscles within 8-15 reps, which means you couldn’t possibly lift another repetition in good form beyond that,

(3) vary depending on the exercise and muscle group you are working since some muscles are stronger than others, just as certain exercise are inherently more complex or challenging than others,

(4) continue to change as you get stronger, and this continual progression is what improves your strength over time and boosts your fitness level.


There you have it! Any question?


Weight Training 101

Want to start a weight training program but don’t know much about it?

Here is some basic stuff that you should know so you won’t be intimidated by the jargon and a lot of other things!






One lift of a weight or completion of an exercise movement is called a repetition or ‘rep’ for short.

A series of repetitions is called a ‘set of reps’ or a ‘set’ for short. Common exercise recommendation for beginners is for three sets of ten repetitions of an exercise, often written as 3×10 — for example three sets of ten squats.

When starting, try one or two repetitions with a low weight to get the feel of the procedure, then try up to 10 exercises consecutively (one set).

Try lighter or heavier weights for comfort with useful intensity. If you can only do less than eight reps then you may be lifting too heavy a weight. If you can do many more than 12 reps without too much effort, say 20, you may need to weight up a little, although some programs for strength endurance use this many reps. This applies to all exercises described.

You should rest between sets so that your body replenishes its energy system for the next round. Time taken between sets can be as short as 60 seconds or as long as five minutes depending on the intensity and weight. One to two minutes is usually adequate rest time for a ten rep set of moderate to low intensity.


Rounded back. Exercises like the squat, leg press and deadlift require movements that place the spine under pressure in ways that can precipitate injuries, particularly to the lumbar or lower spine. In such exercises the importance of keeping the back straight or slightly arched in the neutral position cannot be overemphasized, especially for beginners. No rounded backs please.

Hyperextension. Hyperextension means pushing a joint beyond its normal range of movement. This may produce injury when excessive joint movement stresses ligaments and tendons too much. This concern has lead to the common advice not to ‘lock-out’ the arms at the elbow or the legs at the knees when doing any number of exercises with weights. However, while this is sound advice as far as it goes, particularly for beginning weight trainers, there is some disagreement on the totality of this recommendation. While explosive straightening of these joints in, say, the leg press or overhead press is agreed by most to be risky business, a more controlled full range of movement accompanied by the shortest possible pause at peak extension may not be harmful, particularly for exercisers that are injury free and without a limiting joint abnormality. A dash of common sense is required here; you shouldn’t think that an elbow will suddenly explode if you happen to straighten it while lifting. So comply with the general premise to keep the elbows and knees slightly bent under weight, but don’t overdo it and produce an unnatural half-way extension that could have its own safety issues. A very slight flexion of the joint is all that is required to prevent the possible hyperextension that is the main problem.

Shoulder Flexibility. The shoulder is a complex ball and socket joint with a wide range of movement. It is also one of the most injured joints among sports people in general and weight trainers are no exception. The rotator cuff, a group of four muscles, ligaments and tendons, is often injured, even in non-athletes, and takes some time to heal. Weights exercises requiring unusual or extreme positioning of the shoulder should be considered with much caution. Pulling a bar behind the neck as in variations to the pulldown or the overhead press (see list above) should really be avoided unless you are very sure of your shoulder capability. Even squatting with the bar on the shoulders (back squat), which is a standard procedure, should not be attempted if that rearward rotation of the shoulder joint to position the bar causes any pain or discomfort. Resort to dumbbell squats in this case. More advanced lifters can try other squat variations like front squats with bar on chest or hack squats in which the bar is held behind the legs.

Are you getting all of this thus far?  Part Two is coming tomorrow!

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