Are you lifting enough weight? A common question I receive from online clients and friends is, ‘What weight should I be lifting?’ My typical answer is ‘It depends.’ Find out why and how you can determine the proper weight to lift!

Lifting Enough Weight? Do This Simple Check! | Burpees for Breakfast

Lifting Enough Weight? Do This Simple Check!

WELCOME to the Capable & Strong Series! 

This series is all about strength training. We will be chatting about things from reasons why women should lift to suggested supplements. And you can expect strength training workouts! 

Capable & Strong Series! | Burpees for Breakfast

Hiiii!! Happy Monday!!

How are you doing today!? Have a good weekend?! I hope so!

One of the most common questions I received in my Mindset2Muscles Beta Program was: What weight should I be lifting?

I usually answer with: It depends.

Really though, It’s a great question, especially when you are in a fitness program that focuses on muscle growth. I’ll share my simple check in just a minute, but first let’s chat a couple things.

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In most cases I always promote bodyweight first. If you can’t perform a squat or hip hinge with good form with no weight, it’s  usually unlikely you’ll be able to perform the movement with dumbbells or weight on the bar. In some cases, when I work with clients in person, I’ll use lighter weight on certain moves because it provides extra support. I tend to only do this with in person clients because I can be a stickler on form.

So, make sure you have form basics down before you had a bunch of weight to the bar.

Related: Regressions & Workout for the Hip Hinge


The weight you lift and the amount of repetitions you do a said weight are all dependent on your training goals. Last year, I shared a post on 3 Ways to Structure Your Next Strength Training WorkoutIn it, I break down 3 main rep schemes for building endurancehypertrophy and strength. 

If you are training for muscular endurance, your weight will be lighter as your rep ranges falls between 12 – 20 reps for up to 3 sets. So high reps, lower weight. Think of a Barre Class or Body Sculpting Class.

If you are training for muscle growth, your weight will be mid-heavy as your rep range falls between 8 – 12 reps for 3 – 5 sets. This is my favorite way to train and the setup for Mindset2Muscles.

If you are training for muscle strength, your weight will be heavy as your rep range falls between 1 – 5 for 4 – 6 sets. You moving a heavy load here.

Your goals will help determine your weight.


Without getting into things like 1RM (1 Rep Max) because most of my clients don’t need to really know their 1RM, I tend to stick with the basics.

You should be using a weight that allows you to perform your RX reps with correct form, while still providing a challenge. The last 2 – 3 reps of each set should be tough and force you to hone in on that mind-muscle connection to push through.

So, for example: I know that curling a 5# dumbbell means I can do upwards of 30 – 50 repetitions. Alternatively, I know that if I curl a 30# dumbbell, I might get 3 – 5 repetitions before I need to rest. If I do more, I’ll be slacking on form. Instead, I usually fall between 15# and 20# for a workout that contains 8 – 10 reps for 3 – 4 sets. My muscles burn and those last few reps are challenging, but my form is still pretty solid.

Or let’s take my deadlift, I can pull 200# for 3 – 4 reps and then I need to rest that 3 – 5 minutes before attempting again. If I have a workout that prescribes 8 – 10 reps of conventional deadlift, I’m not going to choose 200#. I’ll pick something like 165 – 175#. I can do my reps with good form, at a decent pace and those last few reps are tough!

It might take a few attempts to find the ‘right’ weight for your particular workout. It’s okay to test out a few options.

[bctt tweet=”Training goals help determine how much weight you should be lifting! #sweatpink @fitapproach” username=”burpees4bfast”]

What happens if I choose a weight and can’t complete all my sets at that weight (with good form)?

Good question. My recommendation is to: drop down to the next dumbbell weight. For example, if I curl 20# for my first 2 sets. By the 5th rep of my 3rd set, my arms are tired and my form is slacking, I’ll drop down to 17.5# for 15# for the remaining repetitions. If there is a 4th set, you can aim to go back up to 20# or stay at 17.5# or 15#.

My thoughts on 5# dumbbells

I tend to poke fun at the 5# dumbbell because for me, in most workouts, it doesn’t really have a place. With consistency and hard work, I’ve built strength and tend to use heavier weights. But that’s for me and most my workouts. That doesn’t mean 5# dumbbells aren’t useful.

  • Depending on your training program, the workout might require you to do something like drop sets where you are completing alot of reps at varying weights until failure. Mr. Burpee will do this occasionally with bicep curls. He starts at like 50 or 60#. Once he fails at that weight, he moves on down until he gets to say, 20#. This training technique isn’t for everyone, but it’s an example of the potential of using 5# dumbbells in a workout.
  • With certain muscle groups, 5# dumbbells might be appropriate. Think shoulder isolation exercises or perhaps tricep exercises.
  • Individuals that have a previous injury or are recovering form an injury might train with 5# dumbbells.
  • Older adults tend to use lighter weights and 5# dumbbells are perfect. When I taught Silver Sneakers, the dumbbells ranged from 2 – 7# (I think). With the workouts we did and their fitness level, the 5# weights used regularly.

My big issue with 5# is when us ladies use them because we think we will get bulky if we lift more than that. Ladies, you won’t get bulky by lifting heavier weights.

Related: Common Misconceptions Women Need to Stop Believing about Lifting


All this boils down to making sure you are listening to your body and being mindful. AND that you are challenging yourself. I like to believe people tend to understand when it’s time to lift more weight. I can usually tell when I should be lifting more weight, it’s just a matter of moving forward with the choice (and challenge) to lift more.


If you are looking for a new strength training program, Mindset2Muscles is launching in just a couple weeks OFFICIALLY OPEN FOR REGISTRATION!. It’s a 6 Week Strength Training Program that will help YOU build muscle, ditch the negative mindset and gain confidence! There is a beginner & intermediate/advanced option, plus an at-home and gym track.


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How was your weekend?! Friday I saw beauty & the Beast and it was SO GOOD! I’d been listening to the soundtrack on Spotify all week and after seeing the movie, I continued to listen! I loved it! Saturday was a FULL DAY of work, guys. I’m SO EXCITED to bring you Mindset2Muscles!! The Manner of Women did start on Saturday, so that made for some extra whining and cramps on my side, but we got sushi and ice cream for dinner! Sunday was more work and relaxing. I wasn’t feeling too hot – cramps, stomach and allergies – so I cancelled my class and just took it easy all day.

Are you ready for this week?! I’ve got some fun stuff going on, including a Thug visit to Indy this weekend! Woo!


What are your favorite recipes? Anything new I should try?
What did you do this weekend?!