Weighing up which weights to use?

If you’re new to strength training and using weights, then it can be overwhelming to know which weights you should be using in class. Even experienced ‘lifters’ will choose different weights depending on their workout programme, so it’s no wonder things can feel confusing!

The use of weights in strength training classes such as B’Lift and B’Strength is designed to improve endurance, build strength and create lean muscle. Selecting the correct weights to use, be that a dumbbell, kettlebell or barbell, is dependant on your chosen goal and it’s important to get it right so that you can achieve your desired results. 

If you select a weight that’s too light then you’re not going to work your muscles in the desired way. However, if you choose a weight that’s too heavy, you increase your chances of injuring yourself or working with bad form. 

You will often hear trainers speak about reaching a ‘failure point’, which is where your muscles fatigue to the extent that you can no longer perform the movement. It’s vital that you maintain your form and technique throughout and this isn’t compromised as a result of lifting a weight that’s too heavy. You ideally want to reach a certain amount of reps in each set, so you also don’t want your choice of weight to leave you unable to complete the workout. 

We spoke to expert Beattitude Trainer and Club Manager, Sam Whittle, to find out more about how to choose the correct weight for your workout and how to know if you could be lifting heavier weights? 

Before you go to your next strength training class, ask yourself these 5 questions…

1. What weight were you using a month ago? 

Are you now lifting heavier than that? The only way you will get stronger is to progressively overload the muscle. This means, if the weight doesn’t go up, the muscle won’t ‘tear and repair’, which allows it to grow and become stronger. 

2. What is the rep range?

 If it’s a high rep range, or if you’re in a B’HIIT class, go for a slightly lower weight than you would in B’Lift or B’Strength and focus on more on your speed and power. Low rep range = heavier weight. 

3. Are you hitting the rep range long before the buzzer has sounded in class?

If the answer is yes then you need to either up your weight, or slow down your movement. Ask your trainer if the tempo of the movement is right. Start by slowing down the movement and see how that feels, it should still be a struggle by the time you get to the final rep. If not, you need to increase the weight. 

4. What muscles can you feel working?

If you’re feeling a twinge in an area of the body that the exercise isn’t intended to target, you may need to lower the weight. Also, if you can feel your form slacking in the final few reps, you may need to spend another few sessions using a lighter weight before you progress. On the flip side however, if you can’t really feel the correct muscles working (e.g: your quads ‘burning’ in a squat) then this is a sign that you need to up the weight. 

5. Are you able to breathe in every rep? 

We concentrate on breathing in class to fully engage the pelvic floor and diaphragm. Remember to always inhale on the load and exhale on the effort. If you find you are having to hold your breath and strain to perform the exercise, lessen the weight.

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