5 Rules to Know What Weights to Use

Today was a great morning. Why? Because when I was at the gym for a couple of sessions the gym was hopping.

And I don’t mean the cardio side of the gym which is normally busy but the weight room side. This brings a smile to my face as it makes me feel the message is starting to get out there to the masses that intense resistance-based workouts is the way to go for weight loss, sports performance or general fitness. Period.

While part of the crowd had to do with it being a Monday morning in January it was still encouraging to see a shift in training approaches taking place.

So what about the rest of the people there?

Why are there still so many cardio kings & queens? Well part of it is mis-information and believing that cardio will yield the best return on their investment. But part of it has to do with intimidation. Or not knowing what load to use.

You see many people would rather go to the gym and feel productive by walking/running on the treadmill than to venture over to the weight room side and feel lost.

So how can you feel confident and safe when selecting your weights for your training session? Here are 4 rules.

Rule #1 On Selecting the Correct Weight – Consider the muscles doing the work

If the first thing you can answer is what part of the body you will be working or what movements you will be performing you will do a better job at choosing the correct weight. For examplen if you were performing a squatting exercise you will be able to handle a heavier load than an exercise for the triceps. Duh, right?

You’d be surprised though to see the number of people that use the same dumbbell to squat with and then go straight into a triceps kickback.

Rule #2 On Selecting the Correct Weight – How familiar are you with the exercise?

What is your max bench? Deadlift or Squat? Don’t feel bad if you don’t know the answers to these. Unfortunately most coaches and trainers wouldn’t be able to answer this either. Sad, but true.

The point is that if you know exactly how much you can handle on a particular exercise then you should be able to train more aggressively and challenge yourself safely. When you’re not as familiar you have to start a little more slowly and figure things out as you go.

***quick aside…the Year Long Training Plan 2.0 has a 1 rep max calculator that walks you through how to figure your max lifts. It also has a template to plug these values into your workout sheets so your loads are already calculated for you.***

Rule #3 On Selecting the Correct Weight – You use a training journal

Do you deadlift? I’ll assume you do. What was the heaviest load you used on your last set? How many reps did you do? How did it feel? How long ago was that?

If you knew the answers to these questions it would be a whole lot easier to figure out how much load to use. Using a training journal, or the YLTP 2.0, ensures that you can track and progress your loads naturally rather than by your best guess.

Rule #4 On Selecting the Correct Weight – Aim to finish strong

When we lift we don’t want every one of our sets to be 100% effort. Intense training doesn’t mean to try and set a personal best every time you touch the bar.

Instead our goal is to warm up adequately and thoroughly enough that we can give our best effort on our last set. Personally if I’m doing 5 sets of an exercise the first three will be submaximal and gradually building. The fourth set will be more intense and challenging but leaving enough to still do better on the last set.

Rule #4 On Selecting the Correct Weight – How it looked & felt

One of the most basic lessons to learn with training is to listen to your body. When it feels good you run with. When it doesn’t you re-check your form. Sometimes you’ll reduce the range of motion and maybe the load.

But what you always want is for your last rep to feel and look as good as the first. Consider the speeed and tempo of the movement. Consider how the load feels on the targeted muscles. If there is a significant change in either of these on the last rep compared to the first you should reduce the load.

Rule #5 On Selecting the Correct Weight – Leave a little in the tank

Training is about stimulating the neuromuscular system to ellicit a response for growth and repair. This allows you to come back stronger the next day. I like to say ‘better to be 7% under your threshold then 1% over’.

There are no bonus points for overdoing it and actually this will set you back more than it will push you forward. And as long as you note in your training journal how the last set felt you’ll know to try a step up next time if it wasn’t enough of a challenge.

Keep these points in mind the next your wondering what weight to use. And you want a done-for-you program that takes the guesswork out of the equation message me about the Year Long Training Program 2.0.

Chris                                                                                                                                                                          okanganpeakperformance.com ‘always moving forward’



2 Responses to 5 Rules to Know What Weights to Use

  1. Anny says:

    Hey Chris, more of a question than a comment…if training 5 – 6 days per week – is it my understanding that all should include resistance training or do you alternate one day like we train in the gym and the next a cardio training ( not the long drawn out kind) but the short hard intervals – just more of them? Thanks for the info! Look forward to getting the check list! Thank you.

    • Chris says:

      Hi Anny: You do want to alternate the type of workout you do. If you lift four times a week you could do intervals on two of the other days and take a day rest in between. The more similar two workouts are in type, intensity and duration, the more recovery time will be needed in between.

      okanaganpeakperformance.com ‘always moving forward’

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