How much weight should you lift?
Exercise • • 1 minute to read • By Najid Sheikh, INFS Faculty
Author: Najid Sheikh
“How much weight should we lift?” is one of the most frequently asked questions in the fitness community. The answer to this can’t be answered without knowing the goal of a person so this article will establish recommendations based on the goals.
The weight can be chosen on the basis of goals like Strength, hypertrophy, and muscular endurance. The weight will differ depending on the mentioned goals but they all have one thing in common which is the weight chosen for a set should be such that it is challenging. To determine this, there needs to be a way to measure the effort spent on a set. The most popular way is the RPE scale (Rate of Perceived Exertion)
RPE is a scale of 0 to 10 where 0 is the rest and 10 denotes the highest effort one can possibly put into a set.
For example, if someone performed a squat movement for 1 set for 15 reps at 10 RPE means if the person wanted to perform one more rep after the 15th rep then he/she couldn’t have done it.
It basically means the person had put the maximum effort possible by the body.Let’s take another example if a person performed squat movement for 1 set for 7 reps at 7 RPE then the person had put 70% of the effort to lift the weight. If the person had to lift more reps after the 7th rep then he/she could have lifted around 3 more reps but didn’t actually lift.
So, it is advisable to lift at mostly anywhere between 6-10 RPE for best adaptation except for beginners. If beginners are not able to maintain proper technique then training at less than 6 RPE is totally fine.Simply it means for a person who has mastered the technique of a movement should put more than 60% of the total effort into a set. After completing a target of 10 reps if a person feels like he/she can lift 7 to 8 more reps then the person should either increase the weight or increase the reps.
Schoenfeld et al., 2014 suggest higher load favors strength. So if strength is the goal then one should lift heavy weights. If one is lifting heavy, then the number of reps will automatically decrease. It is recommended to train at higher RPE with proper rest for the best adaptations.
Lighter weights with a higher rep range(20+) are recommended for endurance adaptations. Training at higher RPE is also recommended for proper endurance adaptations.
Hypertrophy is seen a variety of training loads as per multiple studies( Schoenfeld et al., 2014 ; Mitchell et al., 2012 ).
In a nutshell, hypertrophy can be achieved with both high and low weights as long as it is trained close to failure (6-10 RPE).
The load must be chosen based on the goal of a person for proper adaptation.
- Mitchell, C. J., Churchward-Venne, T. A., West, D. W. D., Burd, N. A., Breen, L., Baker, S. K., & Phillips, S. M. (2012). Resistance exercise load does not determine training-mediated hypertrophic gains in young men. Journal of Applied Physiology (Bethesda, Md. : 1985), 113 (1), 71–77. https://doi.org/10.1152/japplphysiol.00307.2012
- Schoenfeld, B. J., Ratamess, N. A., Peterson, M. D., Contreras, B., Sonmez, G. T., & Alvar, B. A. (2014). Effects of different volume-equated resistance training loading strategies on muscular adaptations in well-trained men - PubMed. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 28 (10). https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0000000000000480
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