How to choose load in weight training?

Weight training is a fantastic way to improve your physical health, boost your metabolism, and increase your overall performance in different areas of life. It's also a popular form of exercise that involves lifting weights in order to build strength and muscle mass. However, one common question that often arises is: How do you choose the right load for your weight training workouts? 

When it comes to weight training, one of the most important factors to consider is the load or weight that you use. Choosing the right load is essential for making progress and avoiding injury. In this article, we'll take a closer look at how to choose the right weight for your training routine.

What is load in weight training?

Load refers to the amount of weight you use when performing an exercise. In weight training, load is typically measured in pounds or kilograms. The load you use will depend on a variety of factors, including: your fitness level, the type of exercise you're performing, and your training goals.

Why is choosing the right load important?

Choosing the right load is important for several reasons. Firstly, using too little weight won't provide enough resistance to stimulate muscle growth, while using too much weight can lead to injury or muscle strain.

Secondly, using the right load can help you progress in your training by challenging your muscles and forcing them to adapt to the stress of the exercise. 

Thirdly, choosing the right load can help you achieve your training goals, whether that's building muscle mass, increasing strength, or improving muscular endurance.

Factors to consider when choosing load

There are several factors to consider when choosing the right load for your weight training routine. These include:

Your fitness level

Your fitness level will determine how much weight you can lift safely and effectively. If you're a beginner, it's important to start with lighter weights and gradually increase the load as you become stronger and more experienced.

The type of exercise

Different exercises require different amounts of weight. For example, compound exercises like squats and deadlifts typically require heavier weights than isolation exercises like bicep curls or tricep extensions.

Your training goals

Your training goals will influence the amount of weight you should train with. If you're looking to build muscle mass, you'll typically use heavier weights for fewer repetitions, while if you're looking to improve muscular endurance, you'll typically use lighter weights for more repetitions.

Your form and technique

Your form and technique will clearly indicate the maximum weight you can safely train with. If you're not using proper form and technique, you'll be more likely to experience injury or muscle strain. Therefore it's important to choose a load that allows you to maintain perfect form throughout the exercise.

How to determine your starting load?

When starting a weight training routine, it's important to choose the right starting load. Here are a few tips for determining your starting load:

Start with light weights

If you're new to weight training, start with light weights that you can lift safely for 12-15 repetitions. This will allow you to focus on perfecting your form and technique before moving on to heavier weights.

Assess your strength

If you have basic weight training experience, you can assess your strength by performing a few sets of a particular exercise with a light weight. If you can easily perform 15 repetitions, the weight is too light. If you can't perform at least 8 repetitions, the weight is too heavy.

Use the RPE scale

The Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale is a handy tool that can help you gauge how hard you're working during your strength training workouts. The RPE scale ranges from 1 to 10, with 1 being the easiest and 10 being the hardest. Aim to work at an RPE of around 7-8 for most of your strength training exercises. This means you should feel like you're working hard, but not pushing yourself to the point of failure. If you're consistently rating your sets below 7, it may be time to increase the load, and if you're rating them above 8, it may be time to lighten the load.

Use the 1RM formula

If you want to determine your maximal strength in a particular exercise, you can use the 1RM formula (One Repetition Maximum, 1RM). It represents the maximum amount of weight you can lift for one repetition with proper form. There are various formulas used to estimate the 1RM based on submaximal lifts. One commonly used formula is the Epley formula, which is as follows:

1RM = W * (1 + 0.0333 * R)


  • 1RM - the estimated one repetition maximum,
  • W - the weight lifted,
  • R - the number of repetitions performed.

It's important to note that these formulas provide estimates and may not be entirely accurate for everyone, as individual variations in strength and technique can affect the actual 1RM. Additionally, it's crucial to exercise caution and use proper form and safety measures when attempting maximal lifts. This method is not recommended for beginners and should only be attempted with proper supervision.

How to progress your load?

Once you’ve determined your starting load, it’s important to progress your load over time to continue making progress and achieving your training goals. Here are a few tips for progressing your load:

Increase weight gradually

When increasing your load, it’s crucial to do so gradually. As a general rule, you should increase your load by no more than 5-10% per week. This will allow your muscles to adapt to the increased stress and reduce your risk of injury.

Use progressive overload

Progressive overload is a training principle that involves gradually increasing the stress on your muscles over time to continue making progress. This can be achieved by: increasing the loads you lift (training intensity), increasing the number of repetitions you perform (training volume)or reducing the rest time between sets.

Vary your training

Varying your training has a great effect on the progression of loads. This can include: changing the exercises you perform, the number of sets and repetitions, or the rest time between sets. By varying your training, you can challenge your muscles in new ways and prevent plateaus in your progress.

Listen to your body

Finally, it’s important to listen to your body when progressing your load. If you experience pain or discomfort, it may be a sign that you’re progressing too quickly or using too much weight. Be sure to give your body adequate rest and recovery time between workouts. Always consult a specialist in case of any doubts, who will help you optimize both the training plan and training tips specifically for your predispositions and goals.


Choosing the right load is essential for success in weight training. By considering factors such as: your fitness level, the type of exercise, and your training goals, you can determine the appropriate load for each exercise. Remember, it's not about lifting the heaviest weight possible, but about lifting the right weight that challenges you - without compromising your form and safety. It's a process that requires patience, consistency, and self-awareness. So, whether you're a beginner or a seasoned strength training enthusiast, take the time to assess and choose the appropriate load for your workouts.

Starting with a light load, using the RPE scale, and gradually increasing the weight over time will allow you to challenge your muscles and make progress while reducing your risk of injury.

By using progressive overload and changing your training, you can continue to increase the loads and achieve your training goals.

And lastly, don't be afraid to seek guidance from a qualified fitness professional, such as a certified personal trainer, if you're unsure about the right load for your specific goals and fitness level. They can provide you with personalized recommendations and help you design an effective strength training program tailored to your needs.

Remember to listen to your body and give yourself adequate rest and recovery time between workouts to ensure safe and effective training. So, keep these guidelines in mind, trust your body, and enjoy the journey of getting stronger and healthier through strength training. Here's to a stronger, fitter, and more confident you!


1. Steele, J., Malleron, T., Har-Nir, I. and Androulakis-Korakakis, P., Wolf, M., Fisher J. P., Halperin, I. (2022, December). “Are Trainees Lifting Heavy Enough? Self-Selected Loads in Resistance Exercise: A Scoping Review and Exploratory Meta-analysis”. Sports medicine52(12):2909-2923.