Getting yourself to the gym might be the most difficult part of going to the gym. Once you’re there, though, are you being as efficient as possible? One of the biggest questions is, “Which weight should I use for this exercise?” If you go too light, you don’t feel it at as much, and your form may be sloppy. If you use too much, you could seriously hurt yourself. It might feel like you’re wasting time experimenting with weights rather than getting a solid workout, but weights are going to be different for toning and maintenance versus weight loss versus building muscle. Read on to learn the differences and prep yourself for your next gym visit!
FOR WEIGHT LOSS
If you’re just beginning or looking to boost yourself over a plateau in your weight loss journey, the weight rack is where it’s at! No matter what you do, make sure it is pain-free and enjoyable. Weight training is extremely important for anyone looking to lose weight. It’s the fastest, most effective way to burn calories and can be performed in safe positions to protect weak joints. A pair of dumbbells will go a long way!
Select your weight: The dumbbells need to be easy to pick up. If you’re not used to weight training, something between three and five pounds is a good place to start. You want to be able to keep that same weight through several cycles of the exercise. Build up for the next workout.
Define your reps: Pick something between six and eight pounds, or four and six for heavier weights. Speed doesn’t matter here, but good form does. Rest as needed.
Set the clock: Your resistance training should last between 10 and 15 minutes between two and three days a week. (via ACE)
FOR TONING AND SCULPTING LEAN MUSCLES
Most women with this goal are expecting to isolate muscle groups with super high reps; however, you will get a lot more bang for your sweat when you increase the weights and perform fewer reps.
>> Read more: 12 Ways to Maximize Your Workout for Optimal Toning and Weight Loss Select your weight: Something between 10 and 15 pounds for the upper body is plenty. For a kettlebell, you’ll want 15 to 30 pounds. Olympic barbells weights should be between the bar itself at 35 pounds and upwards of 65 pounds for overhead action, about 75 pounds for squats. This is really a personal decision. Most group fitness classes use the smaller barbells, which will give you lean results with just 10 kilograms or 22 pounds.
Define your reps: Pick a number between 10 and 20. If you pick 15 and feel like there’s no way you can get to 16, then you’ve selected correctly. You want to fatigue the muscles with the right amount of resistance or stress. Doing 50 to 100 reps will actually cause your muscles to “seize up” and harden, which makes it difficult for them to lengthen into the lean look you want. (via Body Building)
Set the clock: Spend a couple minutes on each exercise and cycle back to it two or three times for a circuit. You can also work the arms for 10 minutes, switch to the lower body for 10 and finish with the core. Whatever feels best to you!
FOR BUILDING BIGGER MUSCLES
Strength is booty and biceps. In this case, building muscle gives you a variety of options and intensities to experiment with from day to day. When building muscle, you can incorporate an element of cardio by increasing weight or speed and decreasing you rests. When building muscle, though, you do want to rest for a couple of minutes between sets to let your battery recharge.
Select your weight: This varies depending on where you are with your strength. Keep a log of what weight you use for different exercises: back squat, front squat, deadlift, overhead press and so forth. Alternate from day to day with tough weights one day and lighter weights the next. For example, if you back squat 100 pounds on Monday and it felt difficult, only back squat 80 pounds on Wednesday with a few more reps. Heavier weights equates to fewer reps.
Define your reps: Aim for eight to 12 reps. Use supersets to your advantage. This is when you combine two to three exercises for one muscle group with no breaks in between them. Then rest for three to five minutes.
>> Read more: Supersets for a Sexy Silhouette
Set the clock: You don’t need to spend two hours in the gym. Work smart. Perform your supersets or exercises with proper reps and rest. Overloading the muscles will do more harm than good. Quit while you’re ahead: 45 to 60 minutes.