Deciding to lift weights is an excellent choice for your body. Building muscle helps you become stronger, leaner, and burn more fat. However, if you go to the gym without a plan you will probably feel overwhelmed. How do you know what weights to use when you begin lifting? There are so many choices!

The first thing to know is that you will use different weights and rep ranges depending on your fitness goals. There are three main types of lifting.

  1. Hypertrophy training is when you want to grow your muscles. This training usually calls for 3 sets of 8-12 reps each.
  2. Strength training is what it sounds like. You want to get stronger. You will do less reps with more sets. You will begin with 8 sets but eventually go down to 5 or 3 sets of 1-8 reps.
  3. Endurance training is when you need your muscles to perform for long periods of time. This is great for athletes who train for long races like marathons. For this training, you will do 15-25 reps for 2 sets.

If you are new to weightlifting (lifting less than 3 months), then you need to focus on burning the movements into your nervous system. Start with lighter weights and higher reps. Lifting weights feels weird and awkward at first. If you load up on weight before your body is used to the movement you can injure yourself. You will also not see the results you want because you are performing the lift incorrectly. Always make sure you choose a weight you can control slowly and safely. Your main goal in the beginning is to perfect your form, not lift the biggest weight you can find.

Now, let’s use an example to show you the best way to choose weights. For this example, you want to do 3 sets of 10 bicep curls.

Begin by choosing a weight you can control easily but burns slightly. You want to maintain good form during the first set but still be a little bit challenged. You should be able to finish this first set fairly easily. Reps 9 and 10 are a little difficult, but nothing you cannot handle. If you have to rock your body to get the weight up, then it is too heavy.

A note about resting between sets: If your goal is to burn fat as well as build strength, then you should keep your rest time between sets fairly low. Shoot for 35-40 seconds between sets. This may also affect what size weight you choose!

In your second set of 10, lifting should become pretty difficult around rep eight. You will be straining and working really hard to get that set finished!

By your third set, you should find it difficult by rep 6. Those last few will really be a struggle. If you can still control the weight and complete the rep with good form, then do it. If not, then you are you done. This means you have lifted until muscle failure, which is a good thing!

Remember, if you have to compromise your form, then you need to stop. The number of reps you do is not important. The important thing is to challenge your body. You want to make tiny tears in your muscles so that they are forced to rebuild and become stronger. Using poor form will not do this and you could injure yourself. The goal is to get the most out of your body, not worry about your rep count. As you continue to lift, you will get stronger and lift heavier weights. Be patient and stay consistent. You can do this!