How Much Weight Should You Be Lifting? Plus a 6-Month Strength-Training Plan!

How Much Weight Should You Lift? Plus a 6-month strength-training plan

This post is by OYS writer Melissa. You can read more about Melissa here and see all of her other posts here. Check out Melissa’s blog Nutrition and Wellness for Life. She offers wellness consultation services that focus on helping you eat better and exercise more.  She also has a FB page!!

Hopefully you know by now how important strength-training is to your health. It can help you lose weight, maintain your weight, tone up, feel stronger, speed up your metabolism, and give you more energy, just to name a few reasons. You can read this post for more information about the benefits of strength-training.

The Myth


First, get it out of your head that if you work out with weights, you will “bulk up.” You would have to work out for hours each day for that to happen, like body builders. Even if you use heavier weights, with average exercise, it’s just not going to happen. Plus, if you are a woman, you are even less likely to bulk up just simply due to the way our bodies are made differently from men. Men tend to have more muscle mass, and can more easily increase their muscle mass than women.

The Truth

The truth is that strength-training will actually help you slim down. If you don’t know by now, when you have more muscle mass, you burn more calories all day long. So what are you waiting for? Grab those dumbbells and get to work!

How much weight?

So how much weight should you be lifting? Well, there’s no one answer for every person. It also depends on your height, weight, and age. You need to start with a workout plan. Plan out what types of exercises you are going to do. Aim for 10-12 repetitions of each exercise, and go through three sets with a brief rest in between sets. You should start with a weight that will allow you to make it through all of your reps and sets, but the last few in each set should be very difficult to complete.

After you have been doing the same exercises with the same amount of weight for a period of time, your body will get used to it and your muscles will have become stronger. When the last few reps are easy for you, you know that it is time to increase your weight. Go up by 2.5 pounds. The last few reps will again become difficult, and will stay that way until you again become stronger. Keep increasing as the reps become easier to complete.

When you lift weights, you are actually causing tiny tears to your muscles. This sounds like a bad thing, but it is good. The muscle then repairs itself by fixing the tear and reinforcing it with more muscle fiber. That’s how you get muscle growth and more tone to your muscles. When you have more muscle, your metabolism speeds up, which means you burn more fat throughout the day. Score!

If you are new to exercising, I would say to start with 5 pound dumbbells and work your way up from there. Don’t rush it and try to do more than you can right now. You will only risk injuring yourself and sidelining your exercise plans. On the flip side, if you have been working out regularly for years, you should not be using 5 pound dumbbells anymore. If you never increase the weight you are using, you will stop seeing results. You will not get those tiny tears in your muscles, therefore there will be no muscle growth.

This is a plan for a strength training beginner. Adjust and modify to suit your needs. The most important thing is to be constantly challenging yourself. You will keep seeing the results you want, plus you won’t get bored and give up on exercise totally.

Month 1

  • 5 pound dumbbells
  • 3 sets of each:
    • 12 bicep curls on each arm
    • 12 triceps kickbacks on each arm
    • 12 shoulder presses
    • 12 chest flies
    • 12 squats
    • 12 lunges on each leg
    • 12 deadlifts
    • 12 side lunges on each leg

Month 2

  • 5 pound dumbbells
  • Same exercises as Month 1

Month 3

  • 10 pound dumbbells
  • Same exercises as Month 1

Month 4

  • 5 pound dumbbells
  • 3 sets of each
    • 12 overhead triceps presses on each arm
    • 12 hammer curls on each arm
    • 12 front raises on each arm
    • 12 upright rows on each arm
    • 12 plie squats
    • 12 reverse lunges on each leg
    • 12 side leg lifts on each leg
    • 12 curtsy lunges on each leg

Month 5

  • 5 pound dumbbells
  • Same exercises as Month 4

Month 6

  • 10 pound dumbbells
  • Same exercises as Month 4

You should see a pattern in this plan. You do the same exercises for three months, increasing the weight you use each month. In the fourth month, you go back to lighter weights with all new exercises. You do those exercises for three months, increasing the weight you use each month. By changing the weight and the exercises, you are going to keep your mind and your body waiting to see what is going to be expected next.

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  1. I love having a list like this to follow! (Bet you couldn’t guess I like lists, seeing as how I love a site called Organize Yourself Skinny!) How frequently do you suggest doing these exercises? Every day? Every other day? I keep thinking back to a past post on here of a “Bedtime Toning Routine,” which I like the idea of, so I was wondering if this could be thought of in the same way. Thanks!

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