If you are new strength training or weightlifting, you probably have a thousand questions running through your head on where to start. In addition, you might be procrastinating because you’re not sure where to start. Above all, the key is to just start. You may have questions holding you back like:
Am I doing this right?
How often should I be doing this so I don’t burn out or push myself into a Hashi flare up?
What is that “kettle ball” looking thing?
How do I know what weight to choose?
This last question is a common one. The perfect weight depends on your personal goals, your knowledge on form, and your starting body weight. But to simplify, let’s say you’re someone who hasn’t gone through the Thyroid Strong program yet and you’re new to weightlifting. You’re not completely sure about the correct form and struggle with fatigue. There are specific guidelines on how to choose the right weight depending on what exercise you are doing. Let’s break those guidelines down.
The proper starting weight should:
- Be available and convenient if you’re doing a home workout
- Challenge your capacity
- Not be a pink hand weight under 5 lbs
- Be heavy enough to make you pay attention to your breath and if you are getting out of breath
- Be light enough to execute multiple reps
- Heavy enough to match your energy, recovery, and sleep the night before.
If you have access to a gym, you should have a plethora of weight options, fingers crossed. Dumbbells, hexbars, barbells and kettlebells. But if you are creating a home gym and not want to break the bank, I would streamline your selection. For those who have limited space, like my sweet NYC studio apartment, then kettlebells are versatile and take up very little space. My 2 favorite brands are Dragon Door for the smooth handles and Kettlebell Kings for their free shipping and customizable color.
Now how to choose your weight based on the move you are training.
For the deadlift, when you hinge your hips back and wedge against the bell, you should feel tension in your hamstrings and glutes. What the heck is wedging against the bell? In the hinge position for a deadlift, lean back against the bell slightly. Your core should be braced, your shoulders packed down, and in this position, the wedge connects your lower body to your upper body. If you lean aka wedge against the bell and you feel like you are going to fall backward or the bell pops off the floor, the weight is too light.
I like to start those newer to deadlifting with at least a 24 kilo bell, which is fifty-three pounds. Before you know it, you will be warming up with a bodyweight load for deadlifts. That’s right, if you weigh 165 lbs eventually dialing in form and pushing your capacity to warm up with 165 lb deadlifts. I’m talking warm up boo, you got this!
Lunge and Squats
Choose a weight and do five reps. By the fifth rep you should feel like you are working. This is how you know you have chosen the right starting weight. Make sure your form is on point, so no sway in the low back or inward collapse of the knees. If you have never done squats or lunges before, start with a fifteen to twenty-five pound weight and try five reps. Feeling strong by the fifth rep? Go for the 14 or 16 kilo bell. Falling over and feeling pain in your low back, dial it down.
Push and Pulls
Pick a weight and do 10 reps of rows. By the 9th and 10th rep, you should feel like you are being challenged. I like to start with a 12 kilo kettlebell and try 10 reps. For push-ups, I start with an angle where I can maintain a vertical plank form from head to toe. Get into a long line from your head to shoulders to hips and have your hands against the kitchen counter. Attempt 10 reps. By the last two reps if you don’t feel like you’re working and this is difficult, then choose a lower angle.
Footwear for Lifting
If you’re working out at home, feel free to go barefoot, you want your feet to feel the floor. Above all, just make sure not drop a weight on your toes. If you’re shoe has a heel, you will have a harder time finding your center in your lift. Lifting in a squishy heeled shoes and lead to an overarched back, jammed joints, rib flare, and chin jut. Ouch, ouch and ouch. It’s such an easy fix, just use those flat shoes.
Most gyms will not let you go barefoot due to liability. Therfore I wear the lowest drop shoe possible to feel like you are going barefoot. You are not lifting such heavy weight to need proper lifting shoes with a heel so avoid a heel for now. You also want to avoid wearing shoes with a cushioned heel like a running shoe. My go-to faves are Adidas Adipure.
If you have no weights at home, Kettlebell Kings have a great Starter Set with a single 12 kilo, 16 kilo, and 20 kilo set. In addition,I prefer the powder-coated bells over the competition bells for maneuverability and ease to work on form.
Remember, weight lifting is good for you. It helps maintain your muscle mass and keeps you strong and stable. The unknown side effect is you start to feel strong and confident in your body and that translates to strength and confidence in other parts of your life. You show up with clarity and you are more present for the people who matter the most. Cheers to picking up a weight.
In Good Health,
Dr Emily Kiberd