How much weight should I use for resistance training?

It depends on your goal. If you want to build muscle do 3 sets 8-12 repetition 70%-85% one rep max. If you want to get power adaptation 30%-45% of your one repetition max 3-6 sets 1-10 repetition. If you want Muscle endurance 12-25 repetition 50%-70% of your one repetition.

Traditionally, proper resistance has been measured by an individual's one-repetition maximum (the highest amount of weight he or she can lift one time), then taking a percentage of that number based on desired adaptation. While this method is great, it isn't practical for all individuals. I recommend that you choose a resistance amount that is heavy enough so that you can lift it no more than fifteen times if you are a beginner, or ten to twelve times if you are an intermediate to advanced exerciser.

If you can complete the required amount of repetitions and sets for your resistance-training exercises without feeling fatigue in the muscles you are using, the weight is not heavy enough. You should feel tired at the end of the set, barely able to push out one more repetition.

Every decision you make in pursuing your fitness endeavors should be:

  • Goal Oriented
  • Assessment Based
  • Supported by Research

In applying this principle to your question regarding the amount of weight to use for resistance training; follow these steps:

  • Determine your One Rep Max (1RM)

To avoid injury, have a workout partner "spot" you and your form. Also, use a conversion chart so you are not actually lifting your 100% 1RM.

  • Determine your goal
  • Research your goal and the recommended number of repetitions, sets and at what tempo each exercise should be performed at. Based on the goal, the intensity (or percentage of your 1RM may already be defined as well).

You might also consider consulting with a personal trainer to safely assess your current fitness level and develop an exercise program.

Get Up, Get Out, Get Going...

Wendy Batts

How much weight one uses depends largely on the goal of the exercise and number of repetitions to be performed of that movement. The repetition ranges correspond to particular goals, examples are below:

Maximal Strength (lift as much as weight as possible): 1-5 repetitions with very heavy weight

Muscular Hypertrophy (i.e. bigger muscles): 6-12 repetitions with moderate to heavy weight and high total volume of work

Muscular Endurance: 12-25 repetitions with light to moderate weight

Power Production: 1-10 repetitions with light weight performed with high amounts of speed

Whether it’s 12, 25 or 3 reps, the weight is basically however much is needed to make that many repetitions challenging but without being a struggle or losing proper form. For example, if you are going to do a set of 15 repetitions of a dumbbell lunge, then you’d choose a weight that by the time you get around to reps 14 and 15, it would become a struggle to continue or you lose the ability to maintain your form. An example of losing your form would be that your back starts to excessively arch as you fatigue. Since it’s easy to lose proper form, it’s a good idea to seek out the help of a
fitness professional so that you can learn what different movements are supposed to look like. This will help reduce the chance of injury and make sure you get the most out of your exercises. It may be a little bit of trial and error at first when finding the right weight for a movement, but after a while it becomes a pretty natural process as you become more aware of what your limits are.

As a personal trainer I get this question ask a lot.  There is no set weight anyone should start out with.  Where you will be with your weight training will depend on your goals and your fitness level at that time.  So if you are trying to sculpt your muscles or put on mass are all going to be factors on how heavy you should lift.  First off you should see your personal trainer to get the right idea of where you should be at and to make sure you do your workouts safe and effective.

Depending on your goals, you can use as low as 10% and as high as 100% of your one repetition max. Your one repetition maximum (1RM) is the heaviest weight you can lift, one time. There are typically four results (physical and physiological adaptations) individuals are trying to accomplish when performing resistance training: endurance, hypertrophy (increasing the size of a muscle), maximal strength, and power. Power adaptations require 1 to 10 repetitions performed as fast as possible at 30 to 45% of the one-repetition maximum (1RM), or approximately 10% of body weight. In other words, you will be lifting very lights weights but as quickly as possible, such as throwing medicine balls. If maximal strength adaptations are desired, the repetition range is one to five at 85 to 100% of the 1RM (or very heavy weight). Common examples of maximal strength exercises include performing heavy squats, dead lifts and bench press. Hypertrophy (muscle growth) is best achieved using 6 to 12 repetitions at 70 to 85% of the 1RM (or moderate weights combined with lots of exercises). Endurance is best achieved by performing 12 to 25 repetitions at 50 to 70% of the 1RM (or light/medium weights with short rest periods).

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.