Yes, you should be lifting weights. Strength training can ward off muscle loss, keep your bones strong, increase mobility, and boost overall well-being. The key to maximizing the benefits and staying safe: choosing the right weight for you.
“A fundamental concept of resistance training is progressive overload,” says Jessica Matthews, senior adviser for health and fitness education at the American Council on Exercise. “For your body to adapt, develop strength, and make new gains, you need to keep your body sufficiently challenged.”
When it comes to safety, using a weight that’s either too heavy or too light can compromise your form, Matthews says, which can lead to injuries or aches and pains.
“You want to be like Goldilocks,” says certified trainer Jessica Smith, creator of Walk Strong: 6-Week Total Transformation System. “You need to challenge yourself but not so much that you risk straining your body.”
There’s no exact weight range that works for everyone, so you’ll need to do some experimentation. Here are four rules you can follow to ensure you stay in the safe (and strong) zone.
Rule 1: Start with the Weight You’re Already Carrying
If you’re new to strength training or haven’t done it in a while, Smith suggests starting with just your body weight to master exercises with proper form and alignment. “If you’re out of alignment, even two extra pounds creates stress on your joints,” she says. So, before you do lunges or squats with weights, do them without weights. Once you feel good about your form, you can start adding weight.