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How Heavy Should My Dumbbells Be?

by Riana Rohmann Google

About Riana Rohmann

Riana Rohmann has been working for the Marine Corps doing physical training and writing fitness articles since 2008. She holds personal trainer and advanced health and fitness specialist certifications from the American Council on Exercise and a Bachelor of Science in kinesiology and exercise physiology from California State University-San Marcos.


The weight of your dumbbells is dependent on what your specific goals are and your current strength. Your one repetition maximum, or 1RM, is the maximum amount of weight you can lift once. Find your current 1RM and you can use percentages of that weight to help you determine your correct dumbbell weight. No matter what your goals are, you need to feel fatigued by the last repetition. If you do not feel the burn, the weight is most likely too light. If you cannot complete the minimum recommended repetitions, then the weight is too heavy.


Increasing your endurance will allow you to do more work for longer periods in your daily activities. According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association, if your goal is to train for muscular endurance, then your ideal repetition range is over 12 repetitions. The weight you use for 12 repetitions is about 67 percent of your 1RM. People who benefit from this type of training are endurance athletes and people who just want to tone and firm up their muscles. Training for endurance does not generally build mass on your muscles.


Hypertrophy is specifically designed to tone your muscles and add strength and size as well. It is generally the most recommended form for people who are trying to get in shape and firm up. Your ideal repetition range is between eight and 12 repetitions, or about 67 to 80 percent of your 1RM. Start with one set of 12 repetitions if you are a beginner and gradually increase sets to three or four. Once you can complete three sets of 12 with ease, increase your weight by 2.5 to five pounds.


Strength building requires you to lift a much heavier weight. You need to max out your muscles by about six repetitions, or over 85 percent of your 1RM. Since this is much more fatiguing than endurance or hypertrophy training, give yourself at least a minute but up to three minutes of rest between sets. If you are new to strength training, start in the hypertrophy phase for six weeks until you develop baseline strength, and then increase your dumbbell weight until you are in the strength training range.


Power training is generally reserved for people in sprint-based sports that may require large amounts of strength. Football, Olympic lifting, and many field events like shot put and the pole vault require athletes to have extreme power. Do two to five repetitions for three to five sets. Generally, this type of lifting involves cleans, jerks and snatches with a barbell, but they can also be done with dumbbells. In fact, performing power lifting with dumbbells increases neuromuscular coordination more effectively than just performing lifts with a barbell.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.