This is a question that many people ask. Too much weight, and you risk hurting yourself. Too little weight, and you won’t get the results that your hard workout should translate into.
In our workouts we do 15 repetitions of each exercise (though on occasion we’ll do less, depending on the exercise itself…on special occasions, more). The first two weeks we go through the complete workout, repeating two or three times, depending on the workout and our timing. Sometimes we can get through the workout, with a good rhythm, twice, but sometimes three times. Neither is right or wrong…it totally depends on you! So please don’t compare yourself to others. Then the next two weeks we will do what I call “three-three-threes.” This means that you’ll do the back-chest-shoulders three times, then followed by legs three times, and then biceps/triceps/abs three times (which of course varies, depending on the current routine). Or depending on the length of the workout, you may do the first group of three or four exercises, all three times. Then you might do the following group two or three times, and the last group of exercises two or three times. Again, this will totally depend on you and your body. Do you have pain in a certain area (especially the shoulders), then in that case you won’t repeat those particular exercises three times, but rather what is right for you…the amount that will allow you to progress, and minimize any discomfort. With pain, what you are trying to accomplish is progress in the long-term. It’s totally OK to use the small weights, and let your body dictate on when to progress.
And the rhythm/speed? It should be a nice controlled speed…not too fast. What happens when you go too fast, your muscles aren’t doing the work anymore…it’s the momentum. Yep, your body has figured out a way to cheat! Our bodies are amazing…knowing all the tricks to make the exercise easier! No kidding! Besides, if you have pushed hard enough, you should get to a point that you just stand (or sit) there, contemplating the next exercise, while the body is finding new reserves. That is completely natural, and it’s one of the surefire ways that I know that you are on the right track! If you were to watch me do my own workout, I definitely grunt and groan (and even sometimes swear…it has been proven scientifically that swearing and cursing makes you stronger…no kidding!).
So, now that we have an idea of how the workout generally moves along (this itself will vary as you get stronger and fitter). Yes, there will be “killer workouts” on occasion, when your body is ready for it. But fitness is a lifestyle. Go with the flow, and gradually your muscles and your body will get into the groove, and you’ll be totally amazed with your results! And one day you’ll look at your body and state: “Oh my!!! Loving it!!!”
How much weight should you use, when there is no pain and you can freely progress? What I personally do is this. My first round I go easy, letting the muscles warm up and get accustomed to what I’m expecting of them. Then the second round I start pushing it. The last round is where I try to reach my maximum ability…in a safe fashion, and always keeping perfect technique. If I feel that I’m losing my technique, I immediately back off, because at that point the body begins to cheat, and the muscles that you are wanting to develop are now taking the back seat, and other muscles have taken over. So for the results you want, you really need to ensure that you finish at whatever number that you still have that perfect form!
What has worked for myself and my clients in the past is that on the last set, when you’re pushing yourself, you might find that you are able to do only 6 repetitions at a certain weight. At that point you take the next light weights, and you complete the remaining at that weight, until you reach the total of 15. And, if you can’t make the full 15 at the lighter weight, that’s perfectly all right! Below you can see a picture of a workout, with increasing weights. You will see that at the highest weight of 20 lbs, the reps are 6 the first day, 7 a few days later, then 8, then 10. Perhaps 12 reps will be next, or perhaps 10 reps is the maximum.
For the women, there is still many questions on how much weight should be used. After all, women in general have no desire to get bulky! This lesson came early in my Personal Training career. I had a good friend who was also a Personal Trainer, and she really pushed “heavy” weights. It was the thing to do way back then. However, one day when I went to put a dress on, I became really upset with how muscular in an unfeminine fashion that I had become. How did I accomplish this? Well, instead of doing 15 repetitions that I now do, I averaged 6 – 8…with far heavier weights. Lesson learned. So, if you’re not wanting to bulk up as I did, keep to the 15 repetitions, but feel free to push yourself. After all, resistance training is all about pushing your body, safely, to the point of fatigue. Also, during all the years that I have been a Personal Trainer, there has been only one woman that I trained that had a tendency of building bulky muscles. All other women simply became more lean and defined…in a beautiful way!!! One client even sent me a photo of herself in a bikini in Mexico…showing off her beautifully sculpted body!!!
And for you men. You have testosterone, so you can naturally lift much heavier than the typical women. But even then, we’re still looking at sculpting that fantastic body of yours! Those huge muscles that you’ve seen on the internet and on television…that takes a whole lot of work to build. And you have to feed those muscles and maintain them…kinda of forever. It’s HUGE work. Besides, when you want to get dressed for a special occasion, and you have become muscle-bound, all of a sudden your shirts and even pants won’t fit properly anymore, and you’re stuck wearing lose clothing so that you have room for those muscles. I’m not saying not to strive for bulky muscles if that’s what you want. We’re all different. All I’m suggesting is that this is a lifestyle. And remember, if you are intent on pushing extreme amounts of weight (which you basically have to in order to build bulky muscles), your risks of getting hurt at one point increases. And then you may be out of commission for months. Having said this, men have loved Personal Training with me. They have loved the ability to do chin-ups and other feats that they were never to do before working out regularly. And, their spouses have also loved the results!!!
My recommendations are based on my successes with my clients…through trial and error. Being that I have over eight years of Personal Training experience, I have fine-tuned my skills to the point that clients simply love the results!!!
Don’t take my word though. Check out my testimonials. Clients have gotten healthier, happier, in better shape, and their injuries have basically disappeared over time…even some who had all but given up ever living without pain.
Stick with it! Work out…safely! Enjoy your workout!
Please feel free to approach me with any questions or concerns that you may have.
PS. Below is the photo I referred to above: