Picking the right weight to use during your workout can sometimes be the hardest part of the day! And unfortunately, there is no "science" behind it. Every person is different, even if they are the same height, weight, age, and gender. Additionally, we have our own cultural barriers that also get in the way-
Males always want to pick the heaviest weight they could possibly lift to get bigger as quickly as possible.
Females are afraid to pick up anything heavier than 10 pounds for fear or getting too bulky.
Both of the above are myths.
Strength training is a form of exercise meant to build lean muscle mass, reduce body fat, and, honestly, make you feel strong + confident inside and out. Remember when I talked about how important hypertrophy is? Yeah, strength training gets you there. And the only way to get these results is to pick the right weight for YOU.
While there is no hard science to do this, here are a few fail-safe tips that will help you become an expert in the gym-
How to choose the right amount of weight for strength training
1. Start with bodyweight.
No matter what the exercise is, it is important to understand the movement prior to adding any type of weight. This means for every exercise. Understand the proper form and practice a few reps with just bodyweight before jumping into the weight rack.
2. Define how many repetitions and sets you will be performing of that exercise.
The number of reps and sets will influence what weight is right for you in that moment in that workout (HINT: Sometimes you can vary the weight you use for the same exercise simply because of more or less reps or sets!). Less reps (1-10) will increase strength and focus on muscle building. More reps (11-20) will improve both endurance and strength. The more reps you are performing, typically the lighter the weight is going to be (see the next steps as to why). Then decide how many sets you are going to perform- 2? 3? 4? 10? Keep this in mind as you move onto the next steps in picking the perfect weight.
3. Use perfect form for all repetitions.
This is KEY! If this is the only thing you remember from all of this, that's fine. THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN ALL OF STRENGTH TRAINING WORLD! Once you define step #2, you will want to pick a weight that you can perform PERFECT FORM for ALL REPS. Swinging, bouncing, pulling, using momentum, or using any other muscle groups to push or pull the weight means the weight is too heavy. This can result in many different injuries, the most prominent being muscle tears and lower back injuries. If you are using the right weight, you will be able to perform every rep perfectly. But it shouldn't be easy....
4. The last reps should be difficult.
This is where a lot of trial-and-error comes in. Yes, you want to have perfect form. But you don't want to have perfect form and feel like you could keep going forever. Your last few reps of your last set should be difficult to perform. A good technique here is to pick the heaviest weight you think you can do with good form and try it out for a few reps. If you feel like you could go all day, up the weight. If you feel like you can't handle one more rep, back it down. Don't be afraid to challenge yourself but always keep #3 in mind!
5. Listen to your body and don't compare yourself to others.
Not only is every body different, but every day can also be different. Listen to your body and only do what works for you that day. And don't forget that this is about YOU and YOUR RESULTS and not about what anyone else is lifting.
Happy lifting! You've got this!