How Much Weight is Too Much to Lift?

How Much Weight is Too Much to Lift?

Are you a lady that lifts? Chasing those gains can sometimes feel like a long process. But reaching new PRs should take time. 

How can women know when they’re lifting too much? And what are the dangers of overtraining?

Read on to learn how to determine the perfect amount of iron to put on that bar.

Start With Your Goals

Determining how much to lift starts with determining your goals. 

Are you a beginner just starting out, or who wants to maintain your current muscle mass? You’ll want to lift slightly lighter weights that allow you to complete three sets fairly easily.

If you’re trying to increase muscle mass and strength, you’ll want to lift heavier weights for fewer reps, and the final round should be challenging to complete. And before you ask, no, weightlifting won’t lead to a bulky frame unless that’s what you’re going for. 

No matter your goals, weightlifting is an excellent way for women to maintain their overall health. Read more about that here

Knowing How Much Weight to Lift

Determining your ideal weight for a specific lift depends on your “one-rep maximum.” The 1RM is the amount of weight you can safely lift one time for a particular lift. If you know your PR for each lift, that’s a great number to use as your base. If you don’t know your PRs, don’t worry: you can gradually add weight to each lift and determine your maximum.

Once you have that 1RM in mind, it’s time for some math.

If your goal is to build endurance or maintain your current muscle mass, you’ll aim for 3 sets of 12-15 reps with about 65% of your 1RM. 

Women who want to increase their strength – whose goals are to lift heavier – will want to lift more weight for fewer reps. In these cases, aim for about 85%-100% of your 1RM, completing 3-4 sets with 6 or fewer reps in each set.

For example, let’s say your 1RM (or personal record) for an overhead shoulder press is 75 lbs.

  • To maintain your current strength, you would lift about 45-50 lbs for 12-15 reps per round.
  • To build strength, you would lift about 63-75 lbs for 5 or fewer reps per round.

If you are fatigued after only a few reps, you’re lifting too much weight. If you can complete 3 sets of 15 reps without any fatigue, it’s time to add some iron.

Gains Take Time

Unfortunately, lifting heavy won’t increase your strength overnight. It’s tempting to try to “force” progress by lifting more weight than we should, thinking it might get us to our goal faster.

But the truth is that gains take time. Weightlifting and muscle gain are a game of patience and consistency. Start small, with just enough weight to make it challenging, and stay there for a week or two. Once that weight feels easy – that is, you can complete an entire set without feeling fatigued – add a little more weight for the next week or two.

Weightlifting progress can be slow, but little steps are the safest way to get to your goals.

Pushing yourself too fast could lead to injury, which could set you back weeks or months in your progress. Like the tortoise and the hare, slow and steady wins the race.

A note here: if you’re a beginner or you’re just returning to a weightlifting routine, start by working with a professional trainer. This person can advise you on proper form to make sure you’re lifting safely. 

Signs You’re Lifting Too Much Weight

Lifting too much weight can be incredibly dangerous for your muscles and joints. If you increase your weight and notice the following, that’s a good indication that you are lifting too much, too fast.

  • Your form starts to falter. If you find yourself struggling to maintain proper form during a lift, STOP. That’s a clear indicator that you are lifting too much weight. Improper form is a surefire way to hurt yourself.
  • You can’t complete a full set without compromising form and quality.
  • You feel pain instead of soreness after a workout. We all know the difference: there’s soreness from a great workout, and then there’s actual pain from a potential injury. If you’re in pain, something is wrong. Reduce your weight and reevaluate. 
  • Uncontrollable weights. If the barbell tilts or shakes uncontrollably when you lift, you probably have too much weight. You should be able to control each lift without a ton of movement from the bar or dumbbells. If they’re shaking all over the place, it’s probably time to reduce your weight. 
  • Swinging. If you have to swing your arms or hips, or support your lift with other movements not prescribed by the lift, you’re lifting too heavy. 

Again, progress takes time. If you notice any of these signs, go back to your previous max weight and keep working. It’s better to have slow progress than to hurt yourself and start all over

The Dangers of Overtraining

Working out harder and longer is the best way to get to your weightlifting goals, right?


Your body needs time to recover. That lifting–recovery partnership is what leads to your gains. Consistently stressing your muscles and joints won’t lead to faster gains. It’s just a quicker road to overtraining injuries.

If you notice that you’re fatigued all the time, your muscles and joints experience pain, you have trouble sleeping, or you notice marked changes in heart rate, you could be overtraining. 

Give your body plenty of rest between workouts to prevent injury, build back those muscles, and reach your goals. 

What’s your weightlifting routine like? Share it with us in the comments or tag us on social media. 

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