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June 30, 2021

Four Ways to Determine What Weight You Should Use

Four ways to determine what weight to use with Annie Miller

Four ways to determine what weight you should use

If your coach isn’t writing in your weights, you’ve got to figure it out for yourself. This ability comes with experience, but these should help.

% of max lift – An equation that is used to calculate the weight you should use for a given number of reps based on the weight used for your one rep max. This can obviously be difficult to use if you do not test or have an accurate estimate of your one rep max.

The other three that I use with my 1:1 and Built by Annie clients are based on feel rather than an equation. I prefer these for several reasons. Especially in working with females and their menstrual cycle – one week, six reps at 80% of a one rep max may feel light (maybe she’s ovulating or just started her follicular phase). Whereas it feels nearly impossible another week (luteal phase, week before menstruating). This leaves the athlete feeling like there’s something wrong with them or over analyzing the situation. We must remember that the body doesn’t know how much weight it is lifting, only the stimulation.

The methods:

RIR – Reps in reserve. Use a weight for 4×6 to where you only have two reps in reserve. This would be similar to an RPE of eight.

RPE – Rate of perceived exertion. Scale 1-10.
1 = close to no exertion.
10 = the most exertion.
This is subjective but highly useful for both intermediate and advanced lifters. And it is a skill that can be developed in time as the athlete learns their tolerance + perception of exertion. Want to build strength? Work above RPE of 7 for big compound movements, generally speaking.

% effort (You’ll see this inside BBA) – You base your percentage off of the first rep. So if I program a 75% effort, rep number one should feel like you had to give 75% effort to complete the lift. With any of these, you will likely use at least 1 to 2 warm-up sets in order to determine what your working load will be.

I use the “rule of two” in order to increase or decrease weight on your next set. If the last two reps are not a struggle, increase the weight. If you could not complete the set, lower the weight and repeat.

Happy lifting!

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I'm an adventurous introvert from Vancouver, Washington who lives on sleep + "me time." I'm a lover of lifting weights, dinosaurs, real talk and traveling with my husband. I am here to help you move better, lift more, bust the myths of the fitness industry, and inspire you to love the process.

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