Should You Lift Heavier or Lighter? Your Guide to Choosing Weights

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We’ve gotten a lot of questions about what weights to use during your Daily Workout. Simply put, it’s up to you, girl! A good rule of thumb that we follow is to perform a drop set. Start off with heavier weights during your moves, then drop down to a lower weight for the next set. This helps push your muscles a lil’ harder while still being able to get all of your reps in.

What you consider as “heavy” or “light” totally depends on your own strength! When you use heavier weights, you’re challenging your muscles more, which helps you gain strength. We mix up our weights depending on the moves! Heavier weights are great for leg workouts because your legs tend to have more power than your upper body. Lighter weights are perfect for fine toning your arms and upper body.

There are certain moves, such as deadlifts, squats, and forward/lateral raises, that you should pay special attention to because they require heavier or lighter weights than you’d typically use. Find out all the deets below!

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Deadlift

Your booty is super strong! The muscles that make up your tush have a lot of strength and power to pull from. To really work your glutes and get ’em extra perky, use heavier weights than you normally would for other moves. If you usually use a set of 8-pound dumbbells, try upping it to 12 pounds.

Karena-Forward-Raise-Square

Lateral/Forward Raises

Your shoulders are the most mobile joint in your entire body. This is great because you can essentially move your arms in any direction, but it also means that your shoulder joint has less stability than other joints. For this reason, use lighter weights during moves that work the shoulders, like lateral and forward raises. This helps you maintain stability and avoid injury while still toning your upper bod.

When it comes to lateral and forward raises, we suggest using 5 pounds or less.

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Squats

When workin’ your tush, up those weights, girl! Don’t forget that you can always start with heavier dumbbells then drop down to a lighter weight for later sets.  Whenever you’re upping your weights, pay extra attention to form and go slowly through the movement. For a reminder on how to keep your knees safe with certain moves, check out our easy modifications post HERE!

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COMMENTS 26

  1. Great article, ladies! You guys answered all my questions regarding choosing my weights. You guys rock K&K xoxo

  2. Thank you for this!! I always feel so confused on which weights to use for which workouts – this is so helpful! :)

  3. This is perfect! I am always thinking I’m not using enough weight for the deadlift–turns out I’m not! Got to challenge that booty :)

  4. Is it better to do sets (do a move, rest and do it again 2-3 times until completed) or rounds/circuits (of all moves, then repeat all) ?

    1. Hi Eunice!

      Typically circuits and little to no rest are considered HIIT/Cardio style work seeing as your heart rate is elevating due to the back to back or “super sets” performed during circuits and short rest time. Sets and reps done as a whole workout is just that but, you can always super-set for a bit more of an intense workout. I like to superset (2 exercises back to back with no rest) with sets & reps for my lower body work and do 45seconds to 1 min interval circuits with little to no rest until my circuit is complete for my cardio! Hope that helped!

  5. Perfect!! I felt a lot of this intuitively, but this is great to keep in mind for those results. Thanks :)

  6. What about rear flies? Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve found those the hardest to do with even my 5s. Back when I started (2016 Jan Challenge 💖💖) I went weightless with these (only) after a few days of realizing my form suffered with any weights and built up. Is this another one to start low, or is it just a personal strength thing?

    1. Definitely stay low for these until you feel comfortable. I’m a PT and can truly say from experience of working with patients don’t over do it too quickly. Start even with 3s and work up if you aren’t doing it with proper form, it’s not really worth doing

  7. This is why I love my Power Blocks. SO easy to switch between weights for different moves!

  8. You girls just read my mind! I was asking that to my husband yesterday…because I find myself completely fine with 8-10 pounds weights for everything but lateral raises!….It is kind of a relief for me to see that we should drop weights for lateral/forward raises. Super helpful! THANKS!

  9. I’m glad you posted this!! I always felt so weak doing the lateral raises but now I know the 5 is perfect!!
    Love you guys!! Happy Friday!!

  10. Thank you for verifying that info on the shoulders! I always drop my weight on those exercises and glad to know that’s exactly what I should be doing :) This was awesome! Would love more gym-centered content.

  11. Great info! When I started in January I could barely lift 5s after being away from weights for over 1 year. I am up to 10’s now for most moves requiring heavier weights! Hooray! I’m getting my body back!

  12. As physical therapist, I love reading this type of info, it’s great to teach people the appropriate techniques and weights to avoid injury. Shoulder injuries are so common because so many people use too heavy weights with poor form. Stabilize that shoulder blade first and try keeping it stable while lifting, its harder than you think!

  13. My friends ask me this all the time too! I know it’s time to up my weights when I don’t wake up the next day “feeling it.” Your muscles get stronger so that 5lb weight you start with isn’t going to be what you stick with! It sounds a little silly but if I’m not grunting by the end of my reps, I know it’s time for me to go up in weight. As always, if it hurts- stop!

  14. Thank you, Tone It Up!!! This has always been something I’ve had questions about. I also wrongly assumed that I should be able to use the same weights for every move, which meant I would feel so strong doing deadlifts and then when I’d move into lateral raises, I’d feel so weak. Now I know I was just using the wrong weights! Good to know!

  15. A similar video for the booty bands would be super helpful!! My bands are the new colors (different shades of blue) so I’m never sure which resistance you girls are using in videos and the daily moves!

  16. Which weights do you guys tend to use for the studio tone it up workouts? Those cross body punches are killer, I feel like I should get a set of lighter weights for these workouts. Maybe 5 lbs?

    1. Hi babe! It totally depends on the move. For the cross body punches, which shoulder work, it’s best to go lighter (3-5 lbs) to protect your shoulders. For lower body moves, we go heavier. And you can always perform a drop set~ starting heavier and dropping down. We like to keep two sets of weights (one heavier and one lighter) at home. xxo

  17. I love this. I’m super invested into fitness, but I had no idea about using less for the shoulder joints. I always do because I have to in order to not use any other party of my body, but now I feel good abou it!

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