What Weight Should You Lift During Workouts?

What Weight Should You Lift During Workouts?

by Kindal Boyle

You’ve started a workout regiment (or have you?) and you're getting more confident with every workout. But there’s the one question that plagues you each workout…

What weight should you use?

Each day at the studio, we warm up and go over the workout. Trainers go over the moves, explain the equipment each woman will need, and then it’s time to start.

But we can’t start until 90% of the ladies ask…

“What weight do you want me to use?”

It’s a valid question, but here’s the thing…

I don’t know.

I can’t tell you what weight is best for you.

I can give a recommendation but it’s always,

“Let’s try the x-weight. If it’s too easy, you can go heavier and if it’s too hard, you can always go lighter.”

No trainer can tell you the weight you should be using because it relies on so many factors and could change from day to day.

So to help you discover YOUR right lifting weight, let’s go over 6 of the biggest factors.

But before I do, there is one thing to clear up…

The Female-Muscle Myth

When it comes to women lifting weights...

Little/light weights don’t tone and lengthen muscles and heavy weights don’t bulk up muscle.

Muscle can do 2 things…

1. Get bigger (hypertrophy)

2. Get smaller (hypotrophy).

You can't change the assertion point of your muscle (where your muscles attach to your bones) which is the only way to change the physical length of them.

Getting toned is a feminine idea created to help women ease into the idea of lifting weights. But at the end of the day… it’s just another word for muscle building.

But here’s the important message…

Women Don't Get Bulky


Our muscles are smaller than men and in order to “bulk” it takes a workout regiment and nutrition protocol designed to bulk up. I also like to remind ladies of this: muscles don’t blow up over night. If you don’t like the muscle/definition you get from lifting weights… then it’s easy to adjust.

I’ve been trying to add muscle mass for 15 years and this is the figure I get from “bulky”.

Your PSA is to encourage you to lift a weight that challenges you.

6 Factors To Determine The Weight To Lift

1 - Have you lifted weights before?

If you’re doing a new to you exercise, start with just body weight.

Learn how your body moves, find out if you have any mobility issues and make sure you have the form down before adding an external load.

If you can't do a proper body weight squat, there is no reason to grab a weight. If you can't do a single push-up, start working on those. Master your body weight before adding external resistance.


2 - How are you feeling today?

If you tossed and turned all night, just started your period, or had a fight with your significant other… you might be weaker than normal.

Everything from sleep, hormones, to what you ate can affect how your workout goes.

There are some days I feel like Arnold and other days when just looking at a weight makes me tired. Listen to your body. And keep in mind that one "weak day" doesn't make you weak. Just means you need to tone in to what's going on and give yourself some rest and love.

3 - How many reps are you doing?

It’s important to understand the workout and the volume (the total know of repetitions) you’ll be doing.

What weight you grab to knock out 10 squats is going to be very different than the weight you use to do 50.

Also important… if you’re doing a high volume workout like 50 squats… you don’t have to use a weight where you can do 50 squats without stopping. It’s okay to have to break up reps.

In fact, I often tell my clients that if they perform 50 reps nonstop, they went too light!

4 - Does your form break down?

If you can lift a certain weight but your form looks terrible, you’ve gone too heavy.

You want a weight that is challenging but you can still perform perfect reps at full range of motion.

If form breaks down or reps become rushed… go lighter.

On the flip side, if you are able to knock out reps like it’s nothing… time to move up.


5- What experience do you have?

At the end of the day, you are the only one that can truly know the weight(s) to use.

It might seem like a hard decision at first, but with consistent training and experience, you learn.

I’ve been lifting weights for over 15 years, I am able to estimate where to start but that took time and practice.

It also means being honest with yourself. If you start a workout but you know it's too easy, go heavier. If it's too hard, don't risk injury, go lighter.

6 - Are you wanting to progress?

Aka… do you want to get stronger?

If the answer is yes, keep track of workouts and the weight you use… work slowly on increasing it. This is called progressive overload and it’s REQUIRED to get stronger. You can either increase the weight you use, increase the number of reps you perform of a certain exercise in a set or increase the number of sets.

Which should you change? It depends. If my goal is to increase my overall strength, I start off aiming to increase weight. But as the weight goes up, that gets harder and I will eventually change over to increasing the reps or sets.

Make sense? At first you'll be able to increase weight pretty fast but eventually your progress vs weight will be challenged and that's why it's so tough. Your strength can't increase at the same rate as you can jump from a 30 to a 40 pound weight. Which is why it's easier to increase the reps.

But if your goal is to stay (maintain) where you are, then stick to the same weights you’ve been using. #boring.


You don’t improve from staying where you’re at. The challenge of a good workout is what makes it fun and it's what forces your body to tighten up and get stronger, leaner and more badass.

And there you have it. Your guide to choosing weights.

Start with body weight exercises and move up the weight train from there.

If a weight is easy, go heavier.

If you’re supposed to do 10 squats but can’t get through 2 with the weight you have, then go lighter.

Strength varies from woman to woman.

The individuality of fitness is what makes it so fun and allows for continuous progress.

But it can be tough, and scary when you're first getting started. Not to mention it's way more fun with a group around you. For that... I'd love to invite you to come and try This Time Fitness.

For just $14, you can come in and try the studio for 14 full days. As many workouts as you want with the best trainers and community in West Ashley.

Click 14 Days to find out more.