How Much Weight Should I Lift?

When deciding how much weight to use it all depends on your level of strength and/or muscular endurance. It also comes down to the set number of reps you have already predetermined you want to do. If you’re unsure how many repetitions to do I suggest reading Reps Reps Everywhere.

As a beginner, you need to familiarize yourself with the proper form for the exercise you intend to perform. For that be sure you understand the exercise and the target muscle group. I also advise practicing with little or no weight. This is also a good technique to use for warming-up for any given exercise. Now, when you are performing the exercise with a heavier weight once you start to “cheat” on proper form, stop. And by “cheat” I mean falling outside of anything considered proper form. That means no hip thrusting while trying to complete the last few barbell curls. (You know who you are)

It’s important you stop the exercise with improper form because your effects become negligible and what’s worse you may end up with an injury. So, let’s say you’re going for 10 reps, if at eight or nine you begin to cheat you’ll want to decrease the weight. On the other hand, if you are going for 5 reps and you can easily complete 10 then it’s time to bump up the weight.

As a beginner, it may seem a little difficult to determine the right amount of weight but you will quickly learn what you are capable of. This is another reason it important to track how much weight you lift and how many reps you can complete for each set. By tracking the weight and reps, you stop wasting time trying to remember what you lifted last week. It’s also a great piece of motivation to see where you started and where you are now.

Now that you understand how to pick the right amount of weight it’s time to move on to Rest Times

Key points:

  • If you struggle to maintain form on the last repetition, good job you’re lifting the right amount weight.
  • If you can’t complete the set number of repetitions while maintaining good form, it’s time to decrease the weight.
  • If you complete a set and you could easily complete a few more repetitions it’s time to go heavier.
  • At no point should you intentionally continue an exercise with poor form. Results become negligible and you may injure yourself.
  • Be sure to keep track of how much you lift per set and how many repetitions you successfully complete.

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12 thoughts on “How Much Weight Should I Lift?

  1. Benjamin Paul Ward Reply

    Hello Jeff,

    Nice article for finding the right exercises and techniques required to get the most out of a workout.

    I used to lift weights and would search online for all kinds of things related to body building. The 5 points you elaborate about are great rules to follow and encourage all to follow this necessary guidelines.

    Otherwise you may be getting little benefits from your workout.

    Do you workout regularly?


    Benjamin Paul Ward

    • Jeff Post authorReply

      Hi, Benjamin thanks for checking out my article. There’s so much information out there when it comes to exercise. That’s why I’m trying to create a simple to follow process on how and why things are done the way they are. That way you can maximize benefits and achieve your goals!

      I workout most days. I lift three days a week and cycle to work. Sundays I usually do a 4-5 hour ride with friends. I live in Bangkok so it’s always fun to ride around the city.

      Thanks for checking out my site!

  2. Chris Reply

    Hey Jeff great advice. I have lifted weights for a number of years and fully endorse the points you have raised in this article. Even to this day I still fall into the poor form bracket from time to time as I sacrifice technique for weight. Yes my ego doesn’t like admitting that sometimes the plates I’ve added are too much. One thing I would like to say is that although ‘cheating’ or poor form is dangerous, Arnold Schwarzenegger use to cheat on the final couple reps of his barbell bicep curls as this was in essence the same as using a spotter to pump out a couple of forced reps. Of course I wouldn’t recommend this for the novice or even the more experienced for the reasons you’ve noted. I also love the look of your website so keep up the good work and “I’ll be back.”

    • Jeff Smith Reply

      Hey Chris, haha, Thanks for the great comment! Yes, I would agree with you that a lot of bodybuilders(pro and novice) do sacrifice form on the last few reps. I’m sure the competitiveness of the sport has a lot to do with it. Additionally, the nutritionally dense diet most bodybuilders are on helps them continue to see benefits when pushing beyond what the “normal Joe” can or would ever want to do. I’m certainly no expert when it comes to competitive bodybuilding but as you can imagine as with most competitive sports injuries do occur quite often.

      I’m glad you enjoy the site and like the look. It’s certainly a work in progress, but should fill up with more content before too long. Check back soon!

  3. Emily Reply

    hi Jeff
    thanks for the tips on choosing the right weight when working out. From your article I think I could probably go with heavier weights for some of the exercises I do. While for others, I am on target. I see too many men too often at the gym lifting too heavy weights and making a spectacle out of it. If you need to grunt that much then it’s too heavy. That should also be a key point 🙂 lol

    • Jeff Smith Reply

      Haha. yes, Emily I see it quite often as well. I’ve got a few “grunters” at my gym. Gotta admire them for there can-do-attitude!

      It’s common that girls are typically on the other side of the spectrum when it comes to choosing weights. Just remember the key point and I also suggest reading my article on repetitions to make sure you’re heading in the right direction of your goals.
      Thanks for checking out my site!

  4. Debra Reply

    Hi Jeff,

    A good article in choosing the right weight. My hisband weight lifts and has done himself injury at times because he’s pushing it a little too much. There seems to be a fine line between lifting for the reps and the benefits the reps will do, or lifting for the weight goal and doing less reps. Hubby has tendinitis in both elbows and he really gets to him that he is unable to lift as aggressively as he did before.

    • Jeff Smith Reply

      Hi Debra, Thanks for the great comment! I’m working on an article now about muscular imbalances and how they can turn into injuries. It’s important to make sure you are following proper form, weight, and training all muscles evenly. When it comes to injuries it’s always important to speak with your doctor and possibly a physical therapist. Last thing you want to do is push through the pain. Your husband could be doing serious injury!

  5. Stephanie Reply

    Wow I really enjoyed this post! I am in the process of weight loss. I lost 30 pounds since March but part of my weight loss is making sure I retain and build muscle. I’m bookmarking your page for future reference. Thanks for the helpful info!


    • Jeff Smith Reply

      Hi Stephanie, I’m glad you enjoyed the post. It can be very stressful when trying to figure out the best way to lose weight and gain muscle. I truly believe lifting weights will help you achieve and exceed your weight loss goals. It’s been scientifically proven again and again. To help you decide on whats the best routine I recommend reading

      I’m also working on another post on the different types of sets to organize within your routine. Thanks again for the comment keep checking back!

  6. William Reply

    Hey Jeff
    Nice article. This is excellent information and very helpful. I really appreciate how you emphasize the importance of maintaining good form and how you illustrate some of the negatives that can happen when you don’t maintain good form. I think your article will be helpful to a lot of people looking for this kind of information. I really hope a lot of young people read this post especially young athletes.

    • Jeff Smith Reply

      Hi William, Thanks for commenting. I see bad advice all the time in magazines, as seen on TV trends, and books related to fitness. Usually based off speculation or some vague poorly conducted study. The objective of this website is to clear up some of the misconceptions related to fitness. As with youth, unfortunately they are the ones most susceptible to the hype. This can cause real damage that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Additionally, there are important factors to consider when it comes to training youth as well. Thanks again William.

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