I’m a Trainer, and This Is How Heavy Your Weights Actually Need to Be to Build Muscle

Define Your Goals

To help you get the most out of your strength sessions, you first need to know what your weightlifting goal is. Are you lifting for strength endurance, maximal muscle growth (hypertrophy), or maximal strength? From there, you’ll be able to determine how much weight you should be lifting, along with the optimal set and rep range.

How to Find the Right Weight

A general rule of thumb is to find a weight that challenges you during the final few reps of an exercise, but that can also be sustained for multiple sets. Another, more accurate, way to determine how heavy you should be lifting for your specific goal is to first determine the heaviest weight you can lift for three to five reps of a given exercise. For example, to figure out the weight you should be using for a barbell back squat, first figure out the heaviest weight you can lift with proper form for three to five reps.

Next, you’ll need to enter the weight you lifted and the amount of reps you performed into a one-rep max calculator. The calculator will provide you with a list of percentages of your one-rep max. Based on your goal, you can use that information, along with the following chart, to figure out sets, reps, and weight. You don’t have to calculate your one-rep max for every exercise, but I do recommend doing it for essential lifts like the squat, deadlift, bench press, and bicep curl.

Nutrition Will Be Key, Too

Because you’re strength training, you’ll need to make sure that you increase your daily caloric intake to ensure your body is getting the accurate amount of macronutrients (especially protein) to help you build muscle. On average, you’ll need to consume 0.5 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. Be sure to consult your doctor before making any changes to your nutrition.

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