How much weight should I use when strength training

Strength training, it’s probably the most debated and argued aspect of fitness in the world. Nobody will ever ask you if running is okay, because it is in our nature, but I am sure you have heard someone ask if strength training is safe/okay for them to do. Why is that? Because it hasn’t been around as long as running and endurance training.

Since you’re reading this, I am assuming that you’re about to get into strength training or have been doing this for a while already, I won’t try and convince you to get into it during this. If you need more conviction of why strength training is beneficial for 99.9% of the people out there, check this out.

First things first

The question you really have to ask yourself first is; What is my ultimate goal? Am I trying to lift the heaviest weights possible? Am I trying to look better physically? Am I trying to lose weight? Am I trying to make my legs strong to support my running? Am I trying to condition my upper body more? Am I trying to get stronger for the new football season that is coming up?

Obviously, all of these different fitness goals have different weight and reps’ requirements/needs. If you’re trying to be the best powerlifter you probably won’t be doing many sets that will go over 8-10 reps. Let’s say you’re an ultra-runner and you want to strengthen your legs for the downhill sections, you will probably spend most of your time doing sets anywhere between 6-20 reps at a time. Obviously, these are very general guidelines, but you get the point. Every single fitness goal has its own workout requirements.

Knowing your 1Rep Max (1RM) is key

For most of us it’s not necessarily important to test our 1RM every single month, but it’s important to base your weights off. As a general rule, every rep from 1-10 is linked to a percentage of your 1RM. For example, if you do 5 reps during a set, you should be able to do that at 85% of your 1RM. The further you get away from your 1RM, let’s say 10 reps per set, the wonkier this rule becomes. Some of us are much better at moving 80% for 10 reps, than 95% for 2 reps. That will have a big impact on the weights you should be using to get the right stimulus.

To provide you with the general rule of thumb:

  • 1RM = 100%
  • 2 reps = 95% of 1RM
  • 3 reps = 90-92.5% of 1RM
  • 4 reps = 87.5-90% of 1RM
  • 5 reps = 85-87.5% of 1RM
  • 6 reps = 80-85% of 1RM
  • 7 reps = 77.5-82.5% of 1RM
  • 8 reps = 75-80% of 1RM
  • 9 reps = 70-77.5% of 1RM
  • 10 reps = 70-75% of 1RM

Different styles of strength straining

Now, how do these numbers relate to the different styles of strength training like pure strength, hypertrophy and strength endurance?

Again, these are all general guidelines but we tend to follow these rules:

  • Pure strength = 1-6 reps
  • hypertrophy = 5-15 reps
  • strength endurance = 12+ reps

As you can see, these rep ranges carry over into one another because it isn’t just black and white. Just because you do 6 reps of any movement doesn’t mean you can’t get stronger and grow your muscle mass at the same time.

If we compare these general rules with the guidelines of our rep range, you will notice that the pure strength training is a lot clearer in terms of weights used for the number of reps you’re doing. As long as you know your 1 rep max.

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