A key to successful strength training is picking the right weight and knowing how to progress it to maximize your results.
WHERE SHOULD I START?
If you have just started exercising or are doing a new exercise that you are not familiar with, you have no idea what weight is appropriate to start with. You may have an idea based on similar exercises you've done before.
But if you can't deduce it, you'll have to estimate it. And here are two general rules you can rely on:
Start lower than you think. It's easier to increase the weight than to decrease it. Worst case - it counts as a warm up set.
Choose a weight that challenges you a little, but that allows you to learn the new movement without effort.
WHEN SHOULD I INCREASE THE WEIGHT?
Once you have found the right weight to start with, the question is when you can start increasing the weight. As we mentioned in the first section, it is much easier to increase the weight than to decrease it.
It is often necessary to increase the weight during the training program in order to make further progress. This is because, as you probably know, you need to push your body hard enough so it adapts and becomea stronger than before.
Often, and this is the case within our programs, you are confronted with a set and rep scheme that includes a repetition range (see Screenshot below). And with that, it's very easy to understand when to increase the weight. If you have trained all sets at the upper end of the repetition spectrum with the same weight, you should increase the weight in the next training session. In this case: if you've done 4 sets with 8 reps on each leg you'll increase the weight in the next workout.
HOW MUCH SHOULD I INCREASE PER SESSION?
When you start to feel comfortable with the exercise, you think you can double the weight on the dumbbell. But here's the problem. Sooner or later, this will lead to a breakdown in form (best case) or injury (worst case). You also have to remember that your tendons need a lot more time to adapt to the new training stimulus than your muscules.
Here's a general rule of thumb that you can use at the beginning, intermediate, or even advanced levels:
WEIGHT INCREASE PER TRAINING
LOWER BODY: 5kg
UPPER BODY: 2.5kg
Let's do the math. If we assume your training 48 out of 52 training weeks, with only one session per week, and we would be able to constantly add 5 kg, week after week - in the end, we you'd move 240 kg in just one year. That's usually not realisitc as you know - so don't get discouraged if you can't increase the weight every workout.
As a beginner you will see huge strength gains in the beginning but don't let your ego ruin them by starting too early with too much weight when your body is not prepared for it.
Start low, make small increases while keeping the technique clean and you'll end tons of weight in no time.