Advice for new weight lifters

I want to start weight lifting to make my body leaner, not bulkier. I’m not that strong. Do you have any recommendations as to the appropriate weight to begin with?

I’m happy to hear you’re interested in weight lifting. In addition to a slimmer, fitter-looking body, lifting weights builds muscles, which make staying active easier. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn throughout the day, even when you’re sleeping, so staying slim is easier, too. Weight training also strengthens bones, reduces blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and reduces your risk of many diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and some types of cancer.

If you’re going to weight train at home, I’ve found that most women, who are just starting out, do well with 3 sets of dumbbells — 3, 5, and 8-pound sets. If you’re exercising at a gym, you’ll have many choices including exercise machines. But no matter where you lift weights, the following information applies to all levels of exercisers.

Here is a general rule to determine if you’re using the right amount:

If you can’t do 8 lifts (reps in gym speak), the weight is too heavy. Decrease the amount by a pound or so and try again. Don’t strain to lift heavy weights; you’ll only put yourself at risk for injuries. If you can easily do 12 lifts and feel like you can do more, the weight is too light. Add a pound or so and try again. This guideline is also a good way to determine when you can increase the amount of weight you’re lifting for a particular exercise.

Another important point to keep in mind is that you’ll be able to lift more weight with your larger muscles — your thighs, chest, and back. For smaller muscles like your arms and shoulders, you’ll need to use lighter weights.

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