How Much Weight Should I Be Lifting?

How much weight should I lift?!

I have quite a few clients that ask me how much weight should I be lifting? Then they say they have done all exercises with 5kg, given the inherent differences in strength between muscles this indicates to me they might not be getting the most from their programme  – so I thought it would be appropriate to share my thoughts on how much weight you should be lifting!

It is a reasonable question and there is no one answer, the better you get to know your body, the better you will know what weight to lift. The weight I choose to lift on a certain exercise depends upon:

  • my strength
  • how many reps and sets I am doing for that exercise (and previous exercises)
  • how much sleep I have had
  • what food I have eaten and the timing of that food
  • what placement the exercise I have is within my programme
  • what other exercise I have done
  • my mental state
  • my hormonal cycle

Upon many other factors! So the weight I would use will vary every time I go in the gym, I just try to ensure that that average number is always on the rise in general!

The reps in your programme have been chosen for a reason:

  • Strength training means choosing weights that allow you to train in a rep range of 1-6.
  • Building muscle mean choosing weights that allow you to train in a rep range of 8-12.
  • Focusing on muscular endurance means choosing weights that allow you to train for at least 15 reps.

So generally speaking you will be in a muscle building/or muscular endurance based category. That said this number is not set in stone and is purely a guide.

Usually your heaviest, most important lift will be at the beginning of the programme so you would expect to use a higher weight here than some of the exercises later on in the programme. As a general rule you would lift heavier on legs and back than you would arms.

How do you know when to go up in weight?

If you are doing the set reps with perfect form and not really struggling then its time to up the weight by a few pounds. The worst thing that is going to happen is it becomes too hard and you have to go back to your previous weight. You have to fail at a weight to increase strength – in the gym failure is a GOOD thing, it means you have taken yourself there! I am not suggesting failing to the point that you are injuring yourself or falling over just to where your form is starting to give, your facial expressions start to turn into a gun – or you need to take a rest-pause within your set. If you have achieved the set number of reps more than once in your programme on the same exercise, then its time to go up a weight.

There is a RPE (rate of perceived exertion guide) within my Bespoke and EventFit Training programmes which is a guide for how it should feel e.g. 8/10 can perform 3 more reps at this weight. This is a guide to help you select the intensity.

One technique I use is ‘warm up sets’ and ‘working sets’ to get a feeling for what I should be lifting that day without worrying about injuring myself. Lets say I am working back squat and I know usually I can squat around 150lbs for 10. I might start with a warm up set at 50lbs for 8-10, a second warm up set at 90lbs for 8-10, and a third warm up set at 120lbs, This allows me to judge how my body is feeling, what my legs have in them that day. Then I start tracking my working sets so I might do set 1 at 130lbs, second set at 140lbs and leave it there if not feeling good or go up to 150lbs for last set or even 155/160lbs if I feel good, I might only make 8 reps but thats ok because the rep range is just a guide.

Young strong girl in the gym doing squat in the sport gym. Beautiful athletic woman with beautiful athletic body lifting weights or doing exercises with barbell.
Start with some warm up sets to get a feel for how your body is feeling on the day. This will give you an indicator of what weight you will be capable of lifting. Particularly on moves like the squat, deadlift and bench press.

Surely I cannot just keep upping the weights?

There will be some of you that don’t want to purchase endless amounts of equipment for your home, and you cannot also continue to steadily increase the weights. At first, you will probably increase the weights rapidly, it will be most likely due to a better neuromuscular control and self-confidence than strength at first. Once you are working in a weight range that is really testing you, you may only see very steady increases in strength.

At this point your training (or if you didn’t want to buy any more equipment) will incorporate intentional manipulations within your programme to increase intensity/volume, without increasing the actual weight itself.

Don’t be afraid to play around with the weights, everyone has to start somewhere, everyone has to look a bit silly nearly dropping a dumbbell on their foot trying, thats the fun part, learning what your body can do, seeing how you can alter your strength. If you think you might be able to go up, try it!

I hope you found this blog helpful, I would be happy to answer any questions please get in contact or someone below.

Interested in lifting weights to improve your riding performance? Check out EventFit Phase one below. I also work 1:1 with clients doing a bespoke training programme which is perfect if you need/want a little more advice along your fit rider journey. I would love to hear from you:

EventFit Phase 1

Sports Specific Strength and Conditioning for Riders!

Jenni x

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