As a beginner, it can be hard to work out how much weight to use for a particular exercise – especially one you haven’t done before. Before you know how much you can lift, choosing what weight to use really comes down to guesswork but we can apply a few simple steps to speed up the process and avoid injury!
Step 1 – Form Over Everything
Using proper form should always be your number one priority. You might be able to deadlift 200kg in a horrible jerking motion with a rounded back but sooner or later you WILL injure yourself and put a complete halt on your progress.
Not only is proper form important for injury prevention, using bad form and swinging the weight up with momentum will take the focus of the muscle group you actually want to train. Leave your ego at the door – if your form starts to falter at any point, you may be using too much weight.
Step 2 – Know What Failure Means
We would recommend that you aim to be within 1-3 reps of failure on your working sets. So how do you work out where failure is? We can define failure as not being able to perform another rep whilst maintaining good form.
Most of the time you will be able to force out another few reps by using momentum and letting your form go to shit – this is not what we are aiming for! The more you train, the better you will get at working out how close you are to failure whilst maintaining proper form at all times.
Step 3 – Increase the Load
Now that your form is solid and you know what failure means, you can find out the ideal weight to use to perform a particular number of reps.
For example, let’s say you are aiming to perform a set of 10 reps. Start light and see how many reps you can do. If you reach 20 with no problem then the weight is too light. Increase the load until you reach complete failure at 11-13 reps – this is the perfect weight for that 10 rep set!
Step 4 – Get a Feel for Things
With time and practice, choosing what weight to use becomes instinctive. You will know how much you usually lift on a particular exercise and how that ‘normal’ weight feels to you an a particular day. If you are gaining strength then your ‘normal’ weight will start to feel easier and you will know to increase it!
Step 5 – Consider All The Variables
The more you train, the better you will get at working out what weight to use. There are so many factors that can influence how many reps you can perform:
- How tired are you from previous exercises?
- What tempo are you using for your reps?
- How strict is your form?
- What range of motion are you using?
- Are you training fasted or after a huge meal?
- Are you still fatigued from your last session?
Remember to take these factors into account, if you aren’t feeling your best don’t start trying to hit a new personal best!
Apply these five steps every time you try a new exercise to help you choose a suitable weight for your working sets.