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How to tell if you are lifting the right amount of weight.

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Have you ever gone to start or are thinking of starting to strength train? Strength training is an important part of any health and fitness routine but many people struggle with answering the age-old question “how much should I be lifting?” I wish I could say the answer is simple but it isn’t, well, at least not right away. You first have to think about and decide what your goal is in regards to strength training. Is your goal is increase your maximum strength, or your overall strength or increase your muscle endurance and tone? Whatever it is there are specific variables to follow depending on what you choose. The general rule of thumb is, if you want to increase your maximum strength the you should aim for 1 to 3 sets of 5 to 8 repetitions, if you want to increase your overall strength then aim for 1 to 3 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions, and to increase your muscle endurance and tone then 1 to 3 sets of 12 + repetitions.

"What is your goal in regards to strength training?"

You may read that and go, “well that’s easy”, head out to the store or go to grab your weight and still feel lost. “I know how many sets and reps, but how much ACTUAL weight should I use?” What you want to aim for when choosing your lifting weight is to perform 1 set of the exercise, using the variables for your goal. You want to feel the muscle fatiguing or ‘working’ in the last third of the repetitions. ”Huh?” For example, you want to increase your overall strength in your biceps and you have chosen to do 9 repetitions, during rep 7, 8, and 9, you want to start ‘feeling the work’. If you feel the work before then or not at all then the weight is not the one for you. Remember though, that was just one set. As you perform more and more sets that fatigue will set in sooner. If at any point you feel fatigue in the first half of the reps, then your muscle is officially tired and needs to rest until the next workout. Forcing the body to complete sets and reps when there is noticeable fatigue can possibly lead to injury. When you get ‘that feeling’ the tearing of the muscle that happens during strength training to becoming more severe which will lead to DOMS (delayed on-set muscle soreness) and potentially lead to injury. Injury usually occurs because the muscle that the exercise is designed to focus on can no longer perform the movement, therefore, surrounding muscles and improper technique and compensation starts to take over.

This is just a general guide to help you get started when choosing your weight. There are many ways to train the body in regards to strength training such as training to increase muscle size, power lifting and training for explosive movements to name a few. These different approaches to training require more specific manipulation of the body and I would suggest speaking with a Certified Personal Fitness Trainer if they are a part of your goal. A PFT will have the education and experience to know how to manipulate and expose the body to changing variables in order for it to adapt and achieve your goal.

Be patient with your strength training. Any and all strength gains take time for you to notice, and if you are patient then the reward will feel even better than you originally thought.

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