How Much Weight Should You Lift?

Although the question of how much weight you should lift is a simple one, the answer isn’t so simple. A lot depends on why you are lifting. Do you want to build strength, or just build muscle size?

Bill Geiger, MA, of writes, “You can pick up a 20-pound bar, curl it 75 times, and, after a while, you’ll become fatigued and your arms will get pumped. You’ll certainly be sweating a lot. Conversely, you can pick up an 85-pound bar, curl it 8 times, then have to drop it because you can’t do any more reps. In both cases, you trained “hard.” But is one approach better than another?

It may surprise you to learn that the answer changes depending on your goal. If you’re looking to get as strong as possible, you’ll be using a heavier weight than someone who is trying to get as big as possible. And to improve muscular endurance, you’ll use an even lighter weight.

•    Strength training means choosing weights that allow you to train in a rep range of 1-6.
•    Building muscle mean choosing weights that allow you to train in a rep range of 8-12.
•    Focusing on muscular endurance means choosing weights that allow you to train for at least 15 reps.

As a senior citizen, I need to lift weights as much as the next guy, but I do not want to break or tear anything. So, I observe the following rule, the weights should not exceed 30 percent to 40 percent of your normal body weight.

The above is NOT Tony about to lift that barbell

Lifting heavy weights compresses the discs of the spine; twisting and turning while lifting or using your back muscles instead of your leg and thigh muscles to lift large, heavy objects can lead to a herniated disk and a lifetime of back pain. If you weigh 150 pounds, you should not exercise with more than 60 pounds of weights because as you age, the spinal discs are not as flexible and the risk of a back injury increases.

I mentioned in previous posts that as a senior citizen, I now do what I call ‘old man’ reps, i.e., half the weight with twice as many reps. The idea behind this is to work and lubricate the connecting tissues as well as to exercise the actual muscle.



Filed under aging, Exercise, Weight

2 responses to “How Much Weight Should You Lift?

  1. I don’t feel so bad now! I started lifting in 1982, when I was 24. For all but one year of the last 30 years, I’ve been very faithful about working out with weights. At 53 now, I don’t lift nearly the weight I used to lift. I can tell I don’t have the strength I used to have. The good news is that my fitness goals have also adjusted as I’ve gotten older. I don’t want to be any bigger, but I do want to stay as toned as possible. It works well because my personal goals and the reality of what I can lift mesh well into a workout routine of about three times/week at the gym. Unlike when I was younger, I now make a point of including cardio exercise along with my weights–usually 30 minutes on the stationary bike, working up a sweat.


    • John-

      That sounds like you have a very good and successful plan. Very intelligent dropping the total weights down. A lot of guys have a hard time with that because of macho stuff. Glad to see that you are also doing the cardio. That is good for your brain as well as your body.

      Keep up the good work!



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