How to Pick the Right Weight

A total body resistance training program works all the major muscle groups of the body: chest, back, shoulders, biceps, triceps, legs, abs/core, and glutes. Each muscle group is different in size, so they require different weights or bands. Biceps and triceps are the smallest, so they require lighter resistance than back and chest muscles (the largest muscles in the upper body). Shoulder muscles link the chest and back to the biceps and triceps, so they require a middle-of-the-road weight or resistance. The leg muscles are the largest muscles in the body, so they can handle the most resistance.  As such, go with heavier weights when doing leg exercises (squats, lunges, etc.)

Some exercises use your body weight as resistance, like crunches, push-ups, lunges, and squats. For body weight exercises, maintain good form and execute fully until you feel your muscles activate. Most targeted exercises for shoulders, biceps, and triceps use weights or bands. The key to great results is using the proper amount of weight for your fitness level and each muscle group.

Failure = Success

When it comes to weight lifting, muscle failure is a GOOD thing!  You’ve reached muscle failure when you absolutely cannot do another rep.  The goal is to fail by the targeted # of reps for that exercise.  Meaning, it should be difficult to get out the last few reps.  If you’re looking to build size, then you need to “fail” on rep 8, 9, or 10.  If your goal is to simply look more toned, muscle failure should happen at reps 13, 14, or 15. 

The struggle to find your max at the end of the exercise has everything to do with picking the right weight. As a rule of thumb, I lift as heavy as I can for each muscle group.  If you use the same weight for every exercise,  you’re not sufficiently challenging the larger muscles that require heavier resistance to grow and build – and you won’t achieve optimum results.

I Don’t Want to Bulk Up!

I hear a lot of women say they’re afraid to lift heavy weights for fear of bulking up like a man.  As you can see from the weights listed below, I lifted as heavy as I could and got lean muscle as a result – not bulk! Physiologically, men are built very differently than women and have much more testosterone so they build muscle much more easily than women (and can lift much heavier).  So don’t be afraid of going heavy.

The Weights I Used to Get Lean and Strong

beginner ab workout

Many people ask me what weights I used for ChaLEAN Extreme.  These are the weights that were necessary for me to get optimum results, but I gradually built up to these weights as I got stronger.  It may be different for you depending on your current conditioning and fitness level.  So these weights are for reference purposes only and are not a suggestion on the amount of weight you should be using.

  • Chest:  20 lbs
  • Shoulders:  17.5 – 20 lbs
  • Biceps: 15 – 17.5 lbs
  • Triceps: 10 – 12 lbs
  • Back: 25 lbs
  • Legs (squats & lunges): 25 – 30 lbs

Whatever weight you choose, make sure you can lift it with proper form. If you can’t, reduce the weight until you get stronger.   And don’t be afraid of bulking up.  Here’s to a beautiful, fit and fabulous NEW YOU!!  Go for it!!

Written by MaShelle Dean
Hey Fam! I'm MaShelle, your Fit & Fabulous Coach. I'm an AFAA Certified Fitness Instructor and lifestyle blogger living in Atlanta with my husbae, Ron. The Jiggle Free Zone is the place to come for fitness inspiration, product reviews, and workout proof hair tutorials. Be sure to sign up for the Fit & Fab newsletter so you never miss my tips on living a #fitandfabulous life!