Beginners Take Weightlifting Too Easily
Men and Women Pick Weights Too Light for Results, Study Shows
WebMD News Archive
Sept. 17, 2004 -- When it comes to weightlifting, beginners may need to pump
up their load.
In a recent study, male and female beginners chose weights that were too
light to do them much good.
Stephen Glass, PhD, EPC, FACSM, of Grand Valley State University, and
Douglas Stanton of Wayne State College, studied 13 men and 17 women.
All were weightlifting novices in their late teens or early 20s.
The researchers turned participants loose in a weight room with little
guidance, telling them to choose a load they thought would "be sufficient
to improve your muscular strength."
Participants didn't know how much weight they were lifting, since the
weights' markings were covered with tape.
The group tried bench press (chest), leg press, pull-down (back), military
press (shoulder), and bicep curl exercises.
They were also instructed to provide an overall rating of their degree of
effort during the weight lifting exercises.
A few days later, they repeated the test.
All participants chose weights that were below the optimum amount.
To build muscle size and strength, weightlifters must hoist at least 60% of
the maximum amount they can possibly handle, say the researchers. But in this
study, no one lifted that much.
Instead, participants chose weights closer to their comfort zones, ranging
from 40%-60% of their maximum ability. Studies have shown that loads under 60%
are generally ineffective at increasing muscle strength.
Fighting for Fatigue
In addition, participants didn't do as many repetitions of the exercises as
the researchers had expected.
Lifting to the point of exertion -- where you can't lift any more -- is
required to for maximal strength training, say the researchers.
There was no macho advantage.
Both male and female participants chose weights that were too light, and
both genders did fewer repetitions than the researchers expected.
Learning the Ropes
Many beginners find it hard to make up their own effective weightlifting
Without pumping enough weight and working to the point of exertion, novices
might quit from discouragement after seeing little progress, say the
That's not to suggest that beginners overdo it.
Instead, new weightlifters may want to seek help from knowledgeable
"The client can then be trained to perceive the effort required for
effective resistance training, and perhaps then they will be better able to
self-regulate their training," write the researchers.
The study appears in the May edition of The Journal of Strength and