penny barnshaw garage fitness girl

How to Choose the Right Weights for Strength Training


When you’re working out at home to build muscle or to lose fat, one thing to consider is whether you’re choosing the right weights for your strength training. 

The fact is, if we want to get results we need to be challenging ourselves and stressing the muscle, which means using a weight heavy enough to force our muscles to adapt and grow. At the same time, we also need to make sure we’re not lifting too heavy and risking injury. 

Here are my tips to make sure you’re consistently choosing the right weights. You may find you need to tweak your strength training workouts after reading this! 

1. The last few reps should be hard, but you should not compromise your form.

This is difficult, because you may need to experiment to find out what weights hit this sweet spot. If you’re uncertain, always start a little lower than what you think will be the right weight. 

Really pay attention to your form towards your last few reps, you should be able to complete the movement without compensating with other body parts. Have you ever noticed that when people lift too heavy with their bicep curls they start to bring their back into the movement? That’s a great example of exactly what we don’t want!

At the same time, it’s important to be wary of not challenging yourself. If you consistently choose a weight that is easy all the way to the last rep, you may be getting some cardio benefits, but there will be little strength gains. 

2. The weight you use will depend on the exercise you’re performing.

This is why you’ll often see me with a range of weights when I’m creating my follow along workouts on YouTube. The weight needs correspond to the strength of the muscles you’re working. 

For example, the glutes are a very large muscle group in the body, so most people will choose a heavy weight for these muscles. On the other hand, if you were working your shoulders, it’s quite likely you’ll need to shift down to a lower weight. 

Keep remembering the first rule, that proper form is what matters most. 

3. The type of weight you use will make a difference.

You may know that you can safely use a certain weight with a barbell, but the weight you can safely lift is likely to be lower when you’re using less stable weights, such as dumbbells, kettlebells, or medicine balls. 

This happens with more unstable weights because your muscles work a little harder to make sure you stay balanced. 

4. Don’t rush your strength exercises

It’s so easy to overload the muscle when you’re rushing through exercises, which you shouldn’t do when strength training. Take it slow and pay attention to your body, to your form, and to the particular muscles you’re using. 

While you’re working hard, think about how great it’s going to feel when you can safely (and ‘safely’ is the key word here) shift up a kilo or two! 

5. Remember that your health will make a difference

Make sure you’re kind to yourself when your body needs a break, and be willing to shift down a few kilos when you need to. If you’ve been unwell for a while and have started getting back into your strength training after recovery, you may not be able to pick up exactly where you left off. 

Rather than push yourself too hard and risk injury, be willing to take a small step back for now. It won’t be long before you’re back to where you were, and if you keep paying attention to your body and challenging yourself (while keeping proper form), it won’t be long before you’re even stronger than before! 


Remember that ‘light’ or ‘heavy’ depends on your body, no-one elses. If you really want to gain strength, challenge yourself, keep proper form, don’t rush your exercises and be willing to step back a little when you need to (with the full intention of getting back into things when your body is ready!). Experiment to find out what weights work for you, and keep those muscles growing!

Want to workout with me? Keep an eye on my YouTube channel so you can check out the new workouts I upload each week. You can also sign up to my newsletter to receive my free monthly workout calendars. 

As always, happy training! 

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