How To Choose The Right Weight For Your Workout

Joseph Rosi
January 22, 2021

A lot of people in the gym struggle with selecting the right weight for their workout.  If that is you as well, don’t worry because you are not alone.  Here are some tips to help you select the right weight so you can get the best results from your workout. 

How do I know if the weight is too light or heavy?

Let’s try to make this as simple as possible. Let’s take a typical set of 8 or 12 reps.  If you are doing your set and by the time you get to 8 or 12 or whatever the prescribed amount is and it feels too easy, then chances are the weights that you’re using are way too light.  

Now if while you’re doing your exercises, you are relying on your body’s momentum to lift the weight and you’re finding it really difficult to get the weight up and you can only do the first few reps or you’re using poor form, then the weight you selected is way too heavy.   

But let’s say you have programmed a traditional set of 12 reps and by the time you get to about number 10 you feel like it is getting challenging and you’re really starting to struggle, you’ve got the right weight.  The key is to make sure you are challenging yourself without sacrificing technique.  

 Now let’s dive further into detail of how much weight you should use during your lifts. 

What is the goal of your training?

So when taking a look at how much weight we should be using, the first thing really taken into consideration is the goal.   If the goal is to focus on building strength, then we tend to want to keep the number of repetitions under eight, so really anywhere from 1 to 8 reps; where more advanced lifters will train between 1-6 reps and newer lifters should stay above 6 reps.  This is going to allow us to focus on putting as much effort into contracting the muscle and really pushing as much weight as we can without getting too fatigued and sacrificing form.   

Now on the other hand we could have a goal of endurance or even hypertrophy which is simply just increasing muscle size.  In this case, we are looking to have reps that are eight and above. So typically you’re looking at your 8-15 range or even up to say 30 repetitions.  So step one is really figuring out what is the goal.  

How to Choose The RIGHT Weight To Achieve Your Goal

Let’s say the goal is strength. So based on the above we are going to make sure we’re staying under eight reps.  Because we are focusing on strength, we want to be able to lift as much weight as possible so that we can only complete 8 reps and no more without sacrificing technique.  If we could do 9 or 10 then the weight is too light.  If you just did a set and found the weight to be a little light, then we want to add some weight for the next set.  For smaller muscle groups, simply increase the weight by about 5 lbs.  Larger muscle groups should typically increase by about 10 lbs.  The goal is to have the remaining two reps of the set be fatiguing and require a little extra effort, but not to the point that form diminishes. Your first rep and last rep should not look too different.  

The same holds true for hypertrophy or endurance when the desired number of reps is above 8.  We want to have the last two reps be challenging, but still able to be completed without sacrificing form.   

If you are new then simply choose a weight that requires effort for the last two reps.  This is going to take a little trial and error with every exercise at first.

More Advanced…

For those that are looking to take their training to the next level, this is where things can get really fun. So let’s say you have been training for a number of months or even years.  You should not be walking into the gym each day without knowing how much weight you are going to use for each exercise.  

This is especially true for competitive athletes where getting mentally prepared will play a big role in your performance.  So instead of just walking in and seeing what feels right, you would want to complete a graded exercise test commonly called a 1RM test or e1RM test by using a formula for those who don’t want to test their true 1RM. Watch the video below to learn how to do this. 

After finding your one rep max, you are going to use that number as your starting point and your workouts will be based on a percentage of that point. In general, here’s a chart that shows you the rep range from strength to hypertrophy goal and how that correlates with the percentage of your 1RM.


So let’s take it from the top.  You first need to know what the goal is, whether that’s increasing muscle strength or muscle size, then you choose your rep scheme based on that goal.  From there, the amount of resistance is determined from a percentage of your 1RM.  Now as you go through your program, be sure to re-test your 1RM every 4-6 months in order to always be working at the upper limit of your abilities.   

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