This is one of the most common questions I get as a remote strength coach. The answer?
I rarely prescribe specific weights; and definitely not for non personalized programs.
That doesn’t mean I can’t help you determine what weights to be using.
I’ve got a few tools to help you find the perfect weights. First off, the less experience with weightlifting you have, the harder it will be for you to see a set and rep scheme and determine what weight you should use. The more experience you get, the easier it will become for you to see programming and know roughly what weight range will work for that program.
Generally speaking, the higher the rep range, the less weight you’ll be using. The lower the rep range, the more weight you’re going to use.
How do you choose those weights? You’ve got to be accept that there will be some trial and error.
If you’re decently new to lifting, then it’s not going to make or break your results to play around with different weights. You’ve got 3x8ea single arm presses. You don’t know what weight to use. Great, pick up some 15’s, press ‘em up a few times. How’d that feel? You’re going to know pretty quickly if it was way too much or like lifting a feather. Move weight up or down from there.
Then make notes!!! Hopefully you’re following an actual program to where you can fill in what weight you used and notes like “15 was way to freaking light” or “15 was actually 100lbs I am positive, use 10’s next time.”
I don’t mean to be condescending. It has simply been my experience that people want to get it perfect the first time and stress out way too much over what weight they are supposed to use. There is really no need to stress. It’s simple. Just try a few reps with a weight (lighter weight, then build from there), and adjust accordingly. In the long run your results and gains will come and more importantly YOU’LL LEARN AND GAIN EXPERIENCE! Progress. Not perfection.
I often tell clients that the last 2-3 reps should be hard but doable with safe form.
Too light: if you bust through the reps with little to no struggle, up the weight next set. If it was WAY too easy, that set doesn’t count. Up the weight and start your working sets at a higher weight.
Too heavy: on the other hand, if you cannot complete the set or last few reps look like garbage, count it, but lower the weight for subsequent sets.
The last 2-3 rep rule generally works for rep ranges 6 and above. The lower the reps the more weight you’re going to be using and all of the reps are going to be a struggle to some extent.
That’s it. I know it’s simple and might not be the answer you wanted. But if you don’t know your 1-3 rep maxes for lifts, then you can’t work off percentages. And percentages are just a guide anyway. That’s a whole other post topic.
If you’re looking for training with a long term perspective and guidance from me, then check out Built By Annie here.
If you’re at square one and have never touched a barbell but are interested, then Movement 101 is your best friend. With video tutorials, 75 pages of instruction and additional resources, you’ll have confidence to try nearly anything in the gym.
Hit those weights, chill out, and find the right weight for your sets with the 2-3 rep rule.
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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