How Much Weight Should You Lift to Gain Muscle Mass? | Learn: Your Fitness Business Resource

How Much Weight Should You Lift to Gain Muscle Mass?

Lifting the proper amount of weight to gain muscle mass is important. It can be easy to become ego-driven and lift heavy weights that are too heavy and can be counter productive to your muscle-building goals. Working with a personal trainer can help you reign in those impulses.

Tyler Spraul is the director of UX and the head trainer for He has his Bachelor of Science degree in pre-medicine and is an NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialist. He is a former All-American soccer player and still coaches soccer today. In his free time, he enjoys reading, learning, and living the dad life. He has been featured in Shape, Healthline, HuffPost, Women's...

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UPDATED: Jun 5, 2021

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  • Lifting the incorrect total weight, whether it is too little or too much, can impede your muscle gain.
  • The ability to lift a weight 12 times or more is not optimal for growing muscle mass.
  • If you can’t lift a weight eight or more times you are also not optimally building muscle mass.
  • Generally speaking, the target goal for lifting weights to build muscle is anywhere between eight and 12 reps.
  • There are many different approaches to lifting weights to build muscle, and everyone responds differently to training, so years of training and many other factors will influence how easy it is to build muscle when lifting weights.

Building muscle when lifting weights is a key goal for many, but how much weight should one light to build muscle mass? Many beginners are so interested in looking physically powerful in the gym, that they tend to neglect the most important building blocks of a flourishing weight training regimen.

These basics include: doing the right number of repetitions, training at the right rhythm, and using the proper amount of weight.

Lifting the incorrect total weight, whether it is too little or too much, can seriously impede your muscle gain.

For this reason, it is important to determine the appropriate amount of weight to lift for each exercise in your regimen.

Follow the steps below to make sure you are using the proper amount of weight to meet your goals, and then consider working with a personal trainer. If you are a fitness professional then get a demo of our gym management software today!

What If the Weight Is Too Heavy or Too Light?

Take a closer look below to see what happens when the weight is either too heavy or too light:

Weight is too light:

The ability to lift a weight 12 times or more is not optimal for growing muscle mass.

The weight on the muscle groups is not sufficient for the growth of the muscles; even if you are performing each set of reps to failure every time (unless you have never done weight training before).

Weight is too heavy:

If you can’t lift a weight eight or more times you are also not optimally building muscle mass. The target goal for lifting weights is anywhere between eight and 10 reps.

Anything outside of this range is counterproductive. Once you have reached a plateau you must try to break out to the next level by shocking your muscles.

Poor exercise form, which can cause muscle tears or muscle strain, and limited hypertrophy can occur.

So, you must use the appropriate weight when training to build up muscle. Now that you have an understanding of why the correct weight should be utilized, it’s time to read about how to ascertain the appropriate weight.

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How Do I Determine How Much Weight to Lift in My Workout?

When it’s time to choose how much weight to lift, your main goal is to lift weights that are heavy enough so that you reach muscle failure after each set.

Simply put, muscle failure is your muscle struggling to complete the last one or two repetitions in a set.

For example, if you aim for somewhere between eight and 10 reps, the weight should become very difficult for you to lift somewhere around repetition number six.

Characteristically, the majority of weight training workout programs include weight between 70 and 85 percent of your 1 repetition maximum (RM) weight.

By utilizing this formula you should come up with a weight amount that can be lifted between 8 and 10 times, which most experts consider ideal for the muscle-building range.

Below is a step-by-step illustration to determine exactly how much weight you should lift:

  1.  Start by determining your own 1RM for each of the exercises you will be doing. This would be the most weight you can lift using the proper technique for each exercise.
  2. Plug your 1RM into the following formula. This must be done for each exercise. By using this number you will be able to estimate how much weight you should use for each exercise. 1RM x .70 – .85= appropriate weight. So, if the maximum amount of weight you can bench press is 190 pounds, you should plug the 190 into the formula like this:

    190 X .70 = 133 lbs.

    190 X .85 = 161.50 lbs.

  3. Utilize the estimated weight amounts above and for each exercise, perform a set to muscle failure. Keep track of this number and add subtract weight until you are able to complete the appropriate number of repetitions.

To build a noteworthy amount of muscle mass, you must train utilizing the formula above, with repetitions ranging anywhere from 8 to 10.

It’s important also to remember to leave your ego behind when you enter the gym and train only for yourself and not to impress others, or find a great home workout plan that lets you weight train privately.

When you weight train, be sure to lift using the appropriate exercise techniques and the appropriate amount of weight. If not, you run the risk of serious injury. Lastly, make sure to do the right number of repetitions based on the formula into which you have plugged in the correct numbers.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Will weight training make me bulky?

Not unless you want it to. For women especially, it takes a lot of purposeful programming, eating, and supplementation to look “bulky.”

Do you have to eat more to gain muscle?

Typically, yes. Some bodybuilders will go into a “bulking” phase where they eat in a caloric surplus to gain muscle mass. Bulking, of course, results in body fat gain as well, so some individuals prefer to recomp. This equates to slower overall muscle growth but does cut down on the fat gained.

Should I do high reps with a low weight or low reps with a high weight?

This depends on your goals. Ideally, one would dabble in both forms of lifting.

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