How to find the right weight for you!

This one is a short one to help you decide what weight is appropriate for each exercise.  A common question that I get asked is what weight am I using for certain exercises, but my weight will be different than yours!  Here are three things to consider when choosing a weight for an exercise:

1. Form >> weight

With any exercise form and quality of movement patterns are the most important things.  The weight should be challenging and you should be struggling to maintain proper form for the last few reps, but you still should be able to maintain form. You can also use a reps in reserve (RIR), which can be associated with RPE (rating of perceived exertion). I personally like to use reps in reserve with good quality reps left. So with reps in reserve you are gauging how many more reps with good form you could do after completion of that set. So for example you have 3 sets of 8. You finish 8 of the first set and say you could do 2-3 more good reps, the second set you could also do 2-3 more good reps, then the last set you could only do 1-2 more good reps. This would mean the weight is about right for you. If you could do 4-5 more good reps, go ahead and go up in weight and if your form starts to compromise on the last rep or two (aka 0 good reps left), go ahead and decrease the weight. In general, you want to have a few reps left in you after your set to ensure proper form and load, but reduce the risk of injury of going to failure.

Reps in ReserveRating of Perceived Exertion
0 reps10 – max effort
1 rep9
2 reps8
3 reps7
4-6 reps5-6
Light effort3-4
Little to no effort1-2
RPE vs. RIR table
via Helms et al on “Application of the Repetitions in Reserve-Based of Perceived Exertion Scale for Resistance training” linked here.

2. Start with a lighter weight and progress from there 

Start with a lighter weight, ensure proper form, then increase the weight until you get to the appropriate weight that is challenging for the last few reps with the tempo and rep range that you want to train. 

3. What are your goals?

Consider what your goals are…are you training to grow in size (muscle growth), for pure strength, power, or muscular endurance?  This will determine your reps and therefore your weight.  If you’re doing a higher number of reps for muscular endurance, you will need a lighter weight, but if you are doing pure strength training at a lower rep range, you will need a heavier weight.  

Hope those three tips help you determine that you are using the appropriate weight or helps you start using the appropriate weight based on your goals!  If you have any questions, feel free to ask away, or if you need guidance via a training program, check out my services page for more information on individualized workout programs!

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