There is some solid reasoning behind the 70% of single rep max, but I wouldn't recommend this method for beginners.
It is probably better to find what is a challenging weight from below, rather than to risk overdoing things. Start with a light weight, if you can do more than 12-15 reps at that weight, then go up to a heavier weight next time you train.
Not only is this safer, but it is easier to develop the correct form with a lighter weight.
In terms of working your muscles to fatigue, some cues that you are fatigued include struggling to maintain form. If you are having to lean, recruit other muscles, or 'jerk' the weights, then you are losing form and it is a sign you have reached the point of muscle fatigue. I suspect that this is not far away from what you mean by 'keeping another rep in the tank'.
Fitness Minutes: (973)
68 12/22/12 5:19 P
A lot of people ask about how much weight they should start with when they begin a strength training program, and there's no specific answer we can give you because it's relative to how strong you are and how many reps you'll be doing of any given exercise. The absolute best way to start is with a personal trainer who can make sure that your form is correct, as well as determine what an appropriate weight for each exercise is. Of course, not all of us have the $ or are able to access a personal trainer... so here are some very general tips to check if you're lifting enough weight.
1) The weight should be challenging, but not so heavy that you cannot hold proper form for all your reps.
2) "Leave one or two reps in the tank." You should feel quite fatigued at the end of each set, but not so tired/weak that you couldn't do another rep if your life depended on it.
3) Fewer reps: more weight. More reps: less weight. To start out, try 2 sets of 12 reps and focus on perfecting your form. Then you can move to the "standard" 3 sets of 8-10 reps, or check out some of the information on 5x5 and similar programs.
If you really need a number to start with, 70% of your 1-rep max (as mentioned previously) is a generally accepted guideline. But don't just go and try to find out what the heaviest weight you can lift is -- that's dangerous! As I mentioned earlier, it's best to figure this out with a qualified trainer... but if you have an experienced spotter, you can gradually increase the weight for each exercise until it's so difficult that you can only do about 3 reps with perfect form. Take that number (the amount of plate weight PLUS the weight of the bar), add 10%, then multiply by 0.7 to get your approximate starting weight for that exercise. But really... that's pretty complicated and doesn't give you that much better of an answer than using the tips above.
Fitness Minutes: (68,349)
12/22/12 3:54 P
You may get confused reading all the comments we all have. Mostly since it is a bit more complicated than what I know you are looking for. The best bet for you is to read up more on threads and this site to see what you are able to do and what fits your lifestyle. Bottom line though is that it takes good nutrition, good form, complete body workouts, cardio and st, dedication, etc. Piece of cake right? LOL Once you read more and see what you are able and capable of doing, then you will have more specific questions that can be answered easier. Keep the faith.
Fitness Minutes: (48,676)
5,092 12/22/12 9:31 A
I don't think dumbbells are necessarily a waste of time, especially if you're a beginner. I've been strength training a lot more these past few months, and I'm using 10 pound dumbbells and have built up the muscles in my chest and arms, but I'm also doing a ton of body-weight exercises along with it. Pretty soon I will start using the bench press in the basement but the dumbbells have helped my upper body come a long way. So IMO, dumbbells are definitely not a waste of time.
Amy, a lot of people prefer lifting heavier weights with fewer reps, I think generally that is 6-8 reps with good form. If you can do 20+ reps easily, that means you need to increase your weights because it's not a challenge. There are a ton of books on strength training that show you proper form, plus lots of youtube videos so I would do some research if I were you. Body-weight exercises are great as well, like planks and push ups, and I suggest doing some of those as well.
12/22/12 8:51 A
Fitness Minutes: (79,333)
12/22/12 7:11 A
I forgot to comment about the importance of form. It takes some time to learn the correct form to lift weights, if you don't learn it before you start lifting significantly heavier weights, the risk of injury increases. It took me several months of practice to get all forms of the major lifting exercises right.
Fitness Minutes: (97,762)
12/21/12 11:05 P
Great advice from M@L. I'll just add that you can get books on strength training from your local library, which might be helpful to you. I recommend _New Rules of Lifting for Women_ by Lou Schuler and Alwyn Cosgrove especially but there are lots of good options out there.
I use hand weight and they are very effective. I would check with bodybuilding.com as they have programs that can help you. They also have videos that can help too. It is an all over body workout as you can't spot train any part.
Burning fat is an all-body process, and you can't target where you lose weight from. Energy is delivered to the muscles via the bloodstream, NOT from being absorbed from surrounding fat stores. Arm specific exercises may develop the arm muscles, but they will do absolutely nothing about the overlying layer of fat.
You should be aiming at an all-body workout that works most of the major muscles in the body, rather than working only a select group of muscles several times over.
The key to strength training is not about how many reps, or about using a specific weight. It is about genuinely challenging your muscles at close to their maximum potential. This is generally taken to mean a weight heavy enough to fatigue your muscles in 4-12 reps. (Fatigue means you feel you cannot do another rep with the correct form). There is little point to using a light weight and stopping at 12 reps. IF you can do 12 reps, it is time to move up to a heavier weight.
In terms of sets, you get about 70% of the maximum possible advantage with the 1st set, 90% with the 2nd, 95% with the 3rd, etc. So you are probably better off keeping it to 2-3 sets, and adding another exercise that works a different set of muscles than pushing on for 4-5 sets.
I disagree with hand weight being ineffective. Because they move independently, you work a broader range of shoulder muscles to keep them stabilized, and work each arm the same, rather than the dominant arm doing most of the work.
Fitness Minutes: (79,333)
12/21/12 4:03 P
Typically the hand weights are a waste of time. I started lifting weights by first strength training with body weight exercises. Planks, push ups, superman, body weight squats etc. Once these exercises become routine and stop challenging you, move onto the barbells with weights. Start with empty barbell, and learn the correct form of squatting, dead lifting, bench pressing, shoulder pressing and rowing. Follow a program. 5x5, 5/3/1 etc. Pay attention to recovery time. My recovery can take a week after some very intense sessions. A 48h rest between weight lifting sessions is for a very young person, possibly in his/her 20's.
Fitness Minutes: (540)
12/21/12 3:32 P
i just started lifting weights with dumb bells and weight bars. i have 7.5 on wach side of the bar.and have 10lbs hand weights. im wanting to know how much to start with. like how many reps and lifts at once. do i do 5 reps of 12 or what. just need to know if i am doing enough or too much to start off with. im getting flab on my arms and need to tone them since ive lost some weight.