If you’re completely new to weight training for women or have just started a new strength training program, picking the correct weight for your medicine ball, kettlebell, barbell or dumbbell exercises is your first challenge. It’s important that you nail this from the offset because if you go too light, you won’t reap the benefits, and if you go too heavy, you risk injury.
Even seasoned lifters need to assess their choice depending on what they’re trying to achieve in their workout.
People often wonder, ‘is heavier always better?’ The answer is no. This is because you use weights to either build endurance, strength or lean muscle, which you’ll hear gym buffs refer to as hypertrophy. These outcomes depend on your number of reps and sets – go too heavy and you wouldn’t be able to complete the workout.
Generally speaking, to achieve results you should reach fatigue or failure, but you need to maintain form throughout every rep and set.
Whether you’re on a beginner weight lifting routine for weight loss or a seasoned pro following a more tailored plan, most workout plans you’ll often come across instructions that require you to choose a light, medium or heavy weight.
Here’s what you need to know to do this, plus tips on how you apply these tips to different exercises in your workout.
HOW TO PICK THE RIGHT WEIGHT FOR YOUR WORKOUT:
EXERCISES THAT CALL FOR A LIGHTER WEIGHT
Core moves require a lighter weight, especially in the early days. If you try to jackknife or leg raise with a weight that’s too heavy, you’ll end up recruiting muscles in your back and neck.
Equally, exercises that ask you to raise your arms above your shoulders like tricep extension, shoulder press, and straight-arm pulses will need to be light enough that you can keep your core aligned.
EXERCISES THAT CALL FOR A MEDIUM WEIGHT
Full body moves will bring you to a middle ground at the weights rack. This is because, you can call on your core stabiliser muscles to keep you strong while working lower and upper body together.
Think weighted lunges or squats. Similarly renegade rows or med ball slams, which use a bit of everything, do the same and will call for a medium weight.
EXERCISES THAT CALL FOR A HEAVY WEIGHT
Moves that are less explosive and recruit your biggest muscle groups need heavy weights to be effective. Examples are deadlifts and sumo squats – you want to feel the work from the very first rep.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I’M USING THE RIGHT WEIGHT FOR MY WORKOUT?
One of the simplest ways to be sure you have the right weight for a workout is by asking yourself the following questions:
- Can I feel the weight?
- Can I move through this exercise with correct form?
- Will I be able to keep correct form in every rep?
- Will I be able to complete all the sets?
- Do I feel like I’m being challenged?
For different exercises in your training plan you will be given a weight suggestion of light, moderate or heavy. Now, how light or how heavy you go changes from person-to-person because of existing strength levels.
That said, here is a guideline for each of these weight categories, depending on where you gauge your ability.
You are new to workouts and the weights area.
Barbell: (light)12, (medium)16, (heavy)18kg
Medicine ball: 4-6kg
ATHLETE IN TRAINING
You have base strength thanks to regular cardio and bodyweight training.
Barbell: (l)14, (m)18, (h)20kg
Medicine ball: 6-8kg
You can already squat your own bodyweight (or close).
Barbell: (l)20, (m)30, (h)50kg
Medicine ball: 6-10kg
Hitting the gym tonight? Read our guide to weight training for women or check out these barbell exercises.