One of the most common questions people have when starting a workout routine is how much weight should they lift. Another is how many repetitions they should do. These questions are closely tied together, as the more weight you lift, the fewer reps you can do. But once you know what to aim for, determining an appropriate starting weight is easy.
The shoulder press, a standard exercise, strengthens your anterior, posterior and middle deltoids as well as your triceps. Depending on your preference and the availability of equipment, you can do a shoulder press with dumbbells, a barbell or a shoulder-press machine. If you're using dumbbells, you can sit on a weight bench or stand up. Either way, keep your back straight and your abdominals engaged. Start by holding the dumbbells just above your shoulders, hands in an overhand grip. That is, your thumbs point inward. Exhale as you extend your arms straight up. Inhale on the way down. People tend to arch their backs when lifting. Squeeze your glutes to help you avoid arching.
Whether you're using dumbbells, a barbell or a shoulder-press machine, find a weight that exhausts your muscles by the time you lift it 15 times. Fitness trainer and author Ben Greenfield recommends beginners start with two to three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions. You can do all your different exercises in order, then repeat the circuit, or you could do two or three sets of shoulder presses, resting 60 to 90 seconds in between, before moving on to your next exercise.
Quality Over Quantity
Trainer Alex Stewart cautions that the biggest mistake weight lifters make is вЂњego lifting.вЂќ This means your ego is more involved in the exercise than your muscles. Straining to lift more than you should means you sacrifice your form and put your body at risk. Instead of trying to impress your fellow gym-goers, Stewart stresses quality over quantity. Do fewer lifts with lighter weights and perfect form.
If you really like to compare yourself to others, you can find charts that give you standard shoulder press weights for people according to body weight, gender and experience level. For example, a chart at the website Exercise Prescription claims that an untrained 181-pound man should be able to lift 80 pounds in a shoulder press. An elite 132-pound woman should be able to press 110 pounds. While these charts may be interesting, they don't give the whole picture. Perhaps you've suffered a shoulder injury sometime in your life that makes the shoulder press challenging for you. Or maybe you're older or were just born with a genetic composition that makes you stronger or weaker than somebody else of the same general size. Respect your own body, and prioritize your safety over measuring up to a chart. Consult your doctor or physical therapist before embarking on a new exercise regimen.