How Heavy Should Your Dumbbell Weights Be?
The ideal weight of your dumbbells depends … it depends on your weight lifting goal in the first place. If your goal is to increase upper body flexibility and endurance, then you want to use lighter weights, but do more repetitions.
However if your goal is to build strength and muscle mass, then you want to lift heavier weights but with less repetitions. But the part of the question of each goal that remains unanswered is how much or how little should you be lifting? Let’s look at both.
Increase Flexibility and Endurance
The other parts of the equation that determines how much weight you should be lifting is the muscle group you are working and your experience level. If you are just starting out working your upper body, know that you will lift more weight when exercising your biceps than you will with the triceps, deltoids and trapezius.
Regardless of your experience level, use a planning factor of twelve to twenty repetitions (reps) per set – this range of reps should bring you to muscle failure – the point where you are unable to do one more rep; plan for one to three sets. If twenty reps don’t bring you to failure, use more weight.
When first starting out, try using a five-pound dumbbell in each hand. Once you can easily do twenty reps, bump up the weight until you reach failure at twelve. Once you have been exercising for a while, you should be able to fatigue biceps with one set using eight pounds in each hand. If not, reduce the weight and add in another set or two of reps.
For the other upper body muscles, try using between two and five pounds in each hand. Still use twelve to twenty reps per set as a guide.
Build Strength and Muscle Mass
If building strength is your goal, then the amount of weight you lift and the number of reps is much different. For upper body muscles, you want to use a weight heavy enough to allow you to perform two to six sets of six reps per set until muscle failure. Again you will be able to lift more weight when exercising biceps than other upper body muscles.
For increased muscle mass, plan on using a weight that will allow you to do three to six sets with six to twelve repetitions per set. As you max out on reps and sets, increase the weight and lower the number of reps.
Lifting more weight than your body can handle can lead to muscle tears and other injuries. Always start with less weight than you think you can lift and work up one pound at a time as your muscles get used to a certain amount of weight at maximum reps.
Regardless of your reason to workout with dumbbells, lifting weights can be both fun and challenging. Be sure to use common sense and lift responsibly.
How Many Weight Lifting Reps Should You Do?
Once the question of “How much weight should I lift?” is answered, the question of “How many weight lifting repetitions should I do?” soon follows … and with good reason – the two questions are relative to each other. You have to know the answers to both questions before starting a weight lifting routine.
The answer in general is “It depends on your goal.”
A weight lifting repetition (rep) is defined as moving a weight from point A to point B and back again. For example, when working a bicep, it would be the action of moving the dumbbell (and of course your forearm and hand) from horizontal, to vertical, and back down to horizontal; that is one rep. A specific number of continuous reps with a short rest period at the end is a set.
Because the number of reps you should perform is goal-oriented, let’s talk about the goal at each end of the spectrum. If your goal is to make every day lifting easier, such as carrying groceries or the laundry basket, then you are more endurance oriented. With this goal you would be doing more reps with lighter weights.
However if your goal is to get stronger and to have larger muscles, then you are strength oriented and you would lift more weight but with fewer reps per set. In between, there are several sub-goals which end up being a combination of the two major goals.
But we still have not yet answered the question of how many reps, have we. That’s coming! If you are at the endurance end of the spectrum, then you want to do 15 to 20 reps per set; the lower number of reps if you are just starting out – the higher number if you have been working out a while. If you are strength-oriented, then your range is 1 to 5 reps per set.
Now, let’s move on to the number of sets. For the endurance-oriented people, usually 1 to 3 sets is enough to reach muscle failure – the point in which the muscle you are working cannot do another lift; for the strength oriented individuals, that number increases to a range of 2 to 6 sets.
To prevent injury start with a lighter weight than you think you can lift. You know you have about the right amount of weight if you reach muscle failure with your minimum number of reps. Now you can add reps/sets until you max out. Once that happens, then increase the weight and drop back on reps/sets.
In the end, the number of reps you should do depends on your goal, current fitness level and lifting experience. Enjoy!