By Hannes on March 3, 2023
What weight should you be lifting for your own unique body, strength and capabilities.
As a Strength & Conditioning Coach who applies rehab and performance methods here in Dubai Marina, I’m often asked this: “how much should I be lifting and how much should I go heavier?”
I have 3 answers for this:
If you are new to an exercise: be sure to lift a weight where you can complete at least 10 very well controlled reps. These are reps where you are in complete control and able to inhale before you complete the hard part of the exercise / eccentric phase and exhale on the hard part of the exercises / concentric phase. This is a safe and good start. Always focus on your ‘power unit’, this is the area from your knees, hips, core and lower back. If you can lift any weight, including weights above your head while maintaining a rigged and tight ‘power unit’ then you are in complete control and can easily know when a weight is too much for you to handle.
How much should I go heavier: when referring to upper body exercises you can increase the weight by 5% of the current weight you are lifting every 4-6 weeks of training. With lower body exercises you are looking at no more at a 10 % increase every 4-6 weeks just because the mechanics in the lower and upper body are very different. Bigger muscles also play a big part on upper body weight vs lower body increases.
This means if you can complete a back squat with 40 kg and feel you can go heavier I would propose a 4 kg increase as this allows enough of an increase and space for the supporting structures of the muscles like the tendons, bones, and cartilage to adapt to the new stressors and especially the smaller synergistic muscles that support the joints in these lifts. Be sure to not just jump 10% every week because you feel like it. During a solid and well structured program you should be operating close to your challenging 10 reps in most sets on every day of training and gradually build up a 10% increase from your effort over a period of 4-6 weeks. Gradually and well controlled is always best. Upper body increases have the same recipe, but the increases will be less over the same period.
Everyone should do a max strength test to be 100 % sure: We all have different abilities on different exercises. No one is the same – so knowing the exact weight that you are lifting at a given rep range is a MUST to track your progression and see how much heavier you can go while maintaining a good and controlled form. I would propose a strength test for all power and strength exercises – Bench press, Back squat and Deadlifts as well as an over head strict press. Establishing a solid max strength test in a well controlled environment with a well experienced Strength and Conditioning Coach is the best way to establish your true max lifts and plot down the ideal training weight you need to use to train on to get the best gains in any program.
I’m new to training and all this is a bit overwhelming – There is an easier and safer way for newbies who are looking at serious strength and performance gains. A max strength test is not suited for newcomers as it simply is not a safe and effective way to establish max strength abilities. For these members we can simplify the process and establish a percentile method with 10 reps that is much safer for some one who doesn’t lift heavy compounds on a weekly basis.
Be sure to read the next blog part on how you can safely establish your max lifts to the closest kg and know what weight you will have to train on. Or you can book your Max strength test assessment with Coach Hannes in Dubai Marina and ensure every session will be on the money by knowing your own individual lift.