I’m Brand New to Lifting: How do I pick the right weight?
On the evening before your first big training day, you find yourself lying in bed, scrolling
through your program with anticipation. In the moments that follow, it hits you, “I don’t know how to choose the right starting weight on any of these exercises.”
I’m 100% sure this sounds familiar, because, quite frankly, just like you, I’m in the Facebook
groups and this is one of the questions I see posted, daily. This question like many others is
posed by an individual genuinely seeking to learn.
Out of fifty-eight responses, there are a few that are super helpful. Other responses give too
much information and then you have the two or three folks who want to impress the general
public with their ability to regurgitate the ten brand new facts read in latest fitness article.
“Just start with a light weight and do 15-20 reps until you start feeling something – that’s how you start toning your muscles.” They say. Better yet, “Calculate your one rep max. Do 1 rep at one hundred percent and then take a percentage of your one rep max divided by 1/3, jump up and down, turn around one time and then multiply your body weight.” Yep! That’s how you figure it out.
Now, I am far from a meathead, but calculating a percentage of my one rep max while I’m
standing on the gym floor - or wherever you train - …Nah, I don’t think so.
Picking the right weight does, however, requires some trial and error.
Because we are all at different places with resistance training, below you will find exactly where you fit in.
Bodyweight Resistance Training:
If you have been assigned 3 sets of 15 bodyweight repetitions, you may find you can complete the first two sets with perfect form, breathing at a moderate to medium rate. However, on the 3rd and final set, around, let’s say, repetition number eight you find yourself fatigued; meaning your body is burning and you feel like you are going to fall apart. That’s perfect! With bodyweight training work as far into your repetitions with perfect form as possible. The bottom line? Get it done!
Resistance Band Training:
Contrary to popular belief, you can get a good workout with resistance bands! Each brand has different tension. So, I can’t just say to you, “Use the black one, that should work.” The real question is, How do I select the proper resistance? Let’s say, your program reads 3 sets of 10 repetitions. If you select a band and you feel, for example, your thighs are going to snap it and send it across the room, that’s not the one. Next example, you select a resistance band and you cannot even perform 4-5 reps with it, that band is too tight. The bottom line? Even with a resistance band, the goal is to focus on form, a complete muscle contraction and fatigue – meaning you will still be tired.
For Bodybuilding – Resistance Training primarily using heavy weights:
The fact of the matter is this, if you pick up a set of weights and lift them, you are bodybuilding. If the plan calls for 10 reps, you’ll want to pick a weight heavy enough to complete 10 reps while maintaining perfect form, but not so light you could do 15. By the time you get to rep #8, you should be thinking to yourself, “Uh-Oh, maybe this was too heavy?” If so, that’s the perfect weight. Bottom line? Those last three reps – of whatever exercise you are assigned - should be pretty close to awful, so go ahead and knock’em out.
When I started writing this blog for human consumption, I didn’t know what we as group were going to call our moment. Our moment of confidently knowing we’ve picked the right weight.
Now I know. Why complicate things. It’s called, “Uh-Oh.”
Yes, of course warm up. But when it’s time to get down-to-business and go in for a 100%
focused weightlifting session, you better be hitting that “Uh-Oh” moment on the last three
reps! You will not get big and bulky.
Testosterone makes guys big. Estrogen makes us lean.
Until next time, lift the weights, eat the food & carry on!
Rian Andrea, NASM-CPT, Pn1
Athlete, Coach, Author, Fitness Blogger