It can be difficult to determine how heavy to lift, especially if you’re just starting out or not following a program. The short answer is that when in doubt, start light and focus on form. I put together 4 tips for how to determine what weights to grab next time you’re in the gym.

  1. Focus on form. Proper form is CRUCIAL. Compromising good form is the first indicator that you’re actually lifting too heavy. Watch yourself in the mirror, film yourself and then watch it back week over week to ensure that your form doesn’t change as your weight gets heavier.
  2. Avoid early fatigue. It’s so important to be aware of the difference between pushing yourself through an appropriate challenge, versus pushing yourself too far with weight. If you’re completing a 12-rep exercise, and in the first 1-3 reps you feel fatigued, you started too heavy. Feeling fatigued by rep 8-12 is an indication that you picked a challenging weight without it being too heavy.
  3. Increase your weight incrementally. A good rule of thumb is to always choose the next available weight. For example, if you’re lifting 10 lb dumbbells, a good option for increasing weight at a sustainable pace would be to grab 12’s next, not 15s. I understand having access to these smaller incremental weights may be more difficult, so it may be worth investing in your own at home. Be sure not to skip over any milestones, increasing slowly is the best way to make sure you don’t plateau!
  4. When in doubt, modify! If you can’t find a weight that feels good, modify the listed exercise to suit your needs. Either drop the weight completely and finish with bodyweight-only, or pick an alternative exercise that works the same muscle groups. No exercise/weight is worth risking injury.

My gym-based strength program, GOOD // SWEAT Strength, utilizes progressive overload (read more about that here) to create sustainable muscle growth by lifting incrementally heavier weights week over week. I recommend it for anyone, beginner, intermediate, or athlete, who has access to a squat rack, variety of dumbbells, a cable machine, bench, and bands.

Welcome! I’m Rachael.

I enjoy sharing my love for food and fitness. I'm a registered dietitian, certified personal trainer, and a New York Times Bestselling author. Here you'll find all kinds of recipes and kitchen hacks, as well as workouts and fitness motivation. Enjoy! — xx Rachael

Recent Posts

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *