I often get asked by womxn new to strength training about what weights they should buy to get started. (If I had a quarter for every time I get asked this question, I could probably buy another over-priced kettlebell!) As you might imagine, this question is extremely hard to answer without more information.
Still, there are some general guidelines you can follow to determine for yourself where to start in building your home collection of weights.
I explain more in this short video:
Variety of load
Not every exercise will require the same amount of weight to build strength. That’s why having a variety of weights can be useful to incorporate into a full-body workout program. There are three categories of weights I tend to use for different types of strength exercises, each with a general range of what actual weight (how many pounds) that will mean for you. Keep in mind these are generalizations, so depending on your experience with this modality you may need to adjust the range accordingly.
The more you train, the higher the weight you’ll need.
- Light Weights: overhead press
General range for womxn: 12-25 pounds—test with a sack of flour or rice at home
- Medium Weights: rows or squats
General range for womxn: 20-35 pounds—test with a backpack full of books at home
- Heavy Weights: squats, deadlifts, and lunges
General range for womxn: 10-15 pounds heavier than your medium weight, around 35-45 pounds.
To determine what specific weight to get within each category, do eight reps of the exercise. If you feel like the last one or two are very challenging, you’re at the right weight to work on building strength.
If you can, get 2 of each category, which will give you lots of possibilities for working unilaterally (one side at a time) or bilaterally (both sides together), and reduce or increase load as needed.
Buying 6 weights is not in everyone’s budget (financial or space!). If you need to choose, I find these combinations will offer most variability among exercises.
4 weights—1 light, 2 medium, 1 heavy
3 weights—1 light, 2 medium
2 weights—1 light, 1 medium
1 weight—1 light
In most of my classes, I offer options to use kettlebells or dumbbells for most every exercise we do. However, kettlebells will offer more accessibility when it comes to moves like swings and flows.
If the conditions of your home gym aren’t perfect, don’t sweat it.
There are many ways to get creative in our movement to increase load—as well as creative props!
As always, you can email me to discuss your personal needs and goals. I also offer private sessions if working one-on-one would be useful to your practice.