Of all the questions that I get asked by the thousands of future TEAM ATHLEAN members each and every day, the one that is the most difficult to answer because it is so subjective is “How much weight should I lift”? That is such a loaded question.
That’s like when you’re wife or girlfriend asks you if Angelina Jolie is prettier than she is? Ummm….how can you answer that one truthfully without hurting her feelings? Luckily in my case…I can since my wife does edge out Angie in the looks department in a wire to wire finish! But I digress.
The loaded question of “How much weight should I lift?” has so many contributing factors that determine the what the right answer should be. As most of you who have written to me at any point can tell, I give great thought and care to my answers. I want to be sure that I get you a response that you can learn from and act upon.
That’s why I hate more than anything having to reply to this question with “it depends”. It’s so lame. But it’s true. So let me discuss some of the factors of WHY I am forced to answer this way…and in doing so, hopefully shed some light on what that right answer is FOR YOU!
What’s Your Strength Level?
First and foremost, I’m not sure what your strength levels are without having a chance to evaluate you in person. A suggestion of 200 lbs on the bench press can seem like Mt. Everest to one and an ant hill to another. Perspective can change drastically depending on the person in question.
If you weigh 110 lbs and feel like the ultimate hardgainer…even half of that weight might be a major accomplishment (and it should be!). On the other hand, if you’re 250 lbs and you actually might be able to use a dumbbell as a toothpick…you’re most likely going to find the 200 lb recommendation far too light. So it’s important to start here.
What’s Your Experience Level?
Second…what is your experience level? Again, if it’s your first time to the gym or following a lifting program (and believe me…there is no shame in that at all, we ALL started lifting with Day 1 at some point!), then not only will strength be a major limitation but so will coordination and muscle fiber recruitment.
Just like any skill (riding a bike, bowling, shooting pool) the more you do it, the better you become. Well, same thing goes with weight training. The more you lift, the better your muscles get at firing efficiently and in the long run…lifting more weight. Don’t worry if you’re just starting. It doesn’t take long to generate this mind muscle connection. But don’t try to rush it either before you’re ready or you could wind up getting hurt.
What’s Your Energy Level?
Third…what is your energy level and focus? Now I’m not going to lie. There are days when even I (yes…even you’re training guru) have my low energy days! Shocking I know, but true. Sometimes going to the gym has as much appeal to me as taking Omega-3 Fish Oil by the tablespoonful (yes, I did that too!).
BUT…I don’t let it stop me. I go and I do my best. However, on those days I certainly wouldn’t be ready to break any personal bests that’s for sure. The amount of weight you can lift is going to be directly affected by where your mind is at at the time you attempt the lift.
If it’s either still at home, or concentrating on the lady on the abduction hip machine in the boy shorts the odds are that you’re not going to be lifting max weights safely. So you be the judge and adjust accordingly!
What Are Your Goals?
Fourth…what are your goals? Are you looking to just get stronger and don’t care about bulk (muscle and fat in equal parts) or are you looking to build the lean, ripped and athltetic muscle of a pro athlete (also known as “ATHLEAN”)? The difference in your answer will determine the weights you should pick up off the racks on nearly every exercise!
If it’s the former, you’re going to want to use weights that limit your reps to 5-6 or less at near max efforts. If it’s the latter however you’re going to want to lighten it up just a bit (just a little bit) to make sure you can stretch that set out to 10-12…while still using a weight that’s heavy enough to cause an anabolic adaptation.
Now that last point deserves to be stated again in another way because I feel it holds the absolute number one key to building muscle quickly and easily! You MUST use a weight that causes you to fail at or near 10-12 reps if you want to build new muscle.
When I say fail, I mean really and truly pushing your body (albeit momentarily) towards the point of exhaustion. The 10th rep is hard, the 11th is very hard and the 12th is almost impossible. This push to the brink is what makes the muscles say “Holy S*&T I’m not sure I like what i just felt! I better make sure I get stronger so that the next time this idiot tries to do that to me again I’ll be better prepared to handle it!”.
Yes, those really are the exact words your body mutters….I think! The point is, give it a reason to get out of its desire to stay the same. Push it by choosing a weight that forces change.
So as you can see, a straight and easy answer is not possible in this case. For that reason, any of you who’ve posed the question to me in one of those thousands of emails, I offer you my sincere apology that I couldn’t answer it more accurately for you.
That said, you’ve been the inspiration for writing this and to all of you…I hope this helps to clear up your doubts. Thanks again for all your support and I look forward to a continuing dialogue with you as we all push our way closer to fitness X-cellence!
So you’ve figured out what weights to use but are unsure what exercises to follow to create that lean, ripped and athletically muscled body like the pros? Not a problem. Head to /best-workout-program-for-men and see exactly what to do to get that look for yourself without letting even one day go to waste with the AthLEAN-X Training System.
Jeff Cavaliere M.S.P.T, CSCS
Jeff Cavaliere is a Physical Therapist, Strength Coach and creator of the ATHLEAN-X Training Programs and ATHLEAN-Rx Supplements. He has a Masters in Physical Therapy (MSPT) and has worked as Head Physical Therapist for the New York Mets, as well as training many elite professional athletes in Major League Baseball, NFL, MMA and professional wrestling. His programs produce “next level” achievements in muscle size, strength and performance for professional athletes and anyone looking to build a muscular athletic physique.