You walk into the gym, ready to work out. You head over to the weight section, look in the mirror and realize you have no idea what to do, even though you know you’d like to be weight lifting. Sound familiar?
When I first started lifting weights, I had no idea what to lift. I’d follow along in workout videos and just pick up exactly what the instructor used. When I stopped getting results, I had no idea why.
I’ve recently been getting lots of questions from women who are not super comfortable in the free weights section of the gym. Braving all the bros working their biceps leaves them feeling intimidated, not knowing how to approach the weight rack. That’s why I’ve decided to write a series on Mastering the Weight Room.
At the end of the series of blog posts, you’ll be confident in approaching that free weight section with ease.
This week we are tackling step 1: deciding which weight you should pick up 🙂
Selecting the correct weight
When you’re getting ready to workout, all you need to do is ask yourself three questions to choose the appropriate weights.
What are your goals?
Your goals determine how heavy you need to lift, so it’s important to identify what’s most important to you.
For most women, 10-12 reps will be ideal. This rep range is ideal if you are looking to tone up and lose some body fat. If you’re looking to gain endurance, increase your reps (12-15), and if you’re looking to put on lean muscle, decrease your reps (8-10).
Rule of thumb: if you’re looking to put on lean muscle, you want to lift heavier and complete fewer reps.
What part of your body are you working?
Depending on whether or not you are working your upper or lower body determines how heavy you should lift. In general, women have more muscle mass on their lower body, so this requires heavier weights. With your upper body, you’ll likely lift less weight. When I’m lifting for my upper body, I grab a set of weights that is 2-5lbs more than I “think” I can lift. I’ll perform as many reps as I can with that weight and drop down as needed.
This is why I recommend having two sets of dumbbells, one heavier for your lower body and one lighter for your upper body.
What type of workout are you doing?
I can generally squat with 45lb dumbbells with good form but that doesn’t mean I automatically grab the 45lb DBs whenever I am going to squat.
If I am doing a more metabolic style (think, HIIT or strength training on an interval timer) workout, I’ll definitely use lighter weights. For the majority of my workouts, using weights ranging from 5-20lbs should be perfect.
With these three questions, you’ll have your bases covered. Be sure to check in with yourself after each set. If the weight gets too heavy or light, be sure to mix it up so that you can still hit your allotted number of reps.
Stay tuned for the rest of the series. If you have questions or things that confuse you in the whole weight lifting realm, let me know in the comments below!
What’s one thing about weight lifting that still confuses you?