How much weight should you lift to maximize strength? One study found that beginners tend to select a weight between 42% and 57% of their 1 repetition maximum (the maximum amount of weight you can lift for 1 repetition). Is this enough weight for beginners? What about for more advanced individuals?
How Much Weight Should I Lift?:
How much weight you lift and the number of repetitions you perform are closely linked with one another. Obviously, the heavier the weight, the fewer reps you will be able to perform in a given set. So, the amount of weight can be expressed either as a percentage of your 1 repetition maximum (RM) or by a repetition range. One meta analysis found that untrained participants (lifting for less than a year) should lift an average of 60% of their 1 RM, or roughly 12 repetitions per set. Trained participants (lifting for more than a year) should lift an average of 80% of their 1 RM, or roughly 8 repetitions per set. Another meta analysis found that college and professional athletes should train at least 85% of their 1 rep max (their wasn’t enough data to make recommendations above that number). See below.
You’ll hear people recommend doing anywhere from 1 to 12 repetitions. However, one researcher said, “although heavy loading is effective for increasing muscle size, it has been suggested that the 6–12 [rep] range may provide the best combination of load and volume. Loads lighter than this (12–15 [reps] and lighter) rarely increase maximal strength.”
If you’re a beginner, aim for weights that allow you to do a maximum of 12 repetitions. Intermediates should pick weights that allow you to do a max of 8 reps, while advanced individuals and athletes might want to move to an even lower max rep range. If you want to stay in the same rep range over time, you’ll have to steadily increase the absolute amount of weight you lift as you get stronger. Studies have also shown that it’s beneficial to vary your rep range over time.
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Glass, Stephen C., and Douglas R. Stanton. “Self-selected resistance training intensity in novice weightlifters.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 18.2 (2004): 324-327.
Kraemer, William J., and Nicholas A. Ratamess. “Fundamentals of resistance training: progression and exercise prescription.” Medicine and science in sports and exercise 36.4 (2004): 674-688.
Peterson, Mark D., Matthew R. Rhea, and Brent A. Alvar. “Applications of the dose-response for muscular strength development: a review of meta-analytic efficacy and reliability for designing training prescription.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 19.4 (2005): 950-958.
Peterson, Mark D., Matthew R. Rhea, and Brent A. Alvar. “Maximizing strength development in athletes: a meta-analysis to determine the dose-response relationship.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 18.2 (2004): 377-382.
Rhea, Matthew R., et al. “A meta-analysis to determine the dose response for strength development.” Medicine and science in sports and exercise 35.3 (2003): 456-464.