3 Strategies to Decide How Much Weight to Use

One of the most common questions we get is, “What weight should I use?”

To narrow it down, we’re talking about the second portion of our “First, Then” formats, a 15-20 minute high intensity circuit that typically features 3-4 movements. Other examples include a “25+” format where we work for 25 minutes continuously, or even our “Medley” formats that pop up on Fridays where we work for 35 minutes non-stop.

Essentially, any format where we would broadly label a “circuit” where we program 3-4 movements. We are excluding the discussion from Tier 1 in a strength focused format for the sake of this blog, for now.

There are many rep ranges in which we can work for these, and if you are still starting out, going heavier like a more experienced member is not for you. There are a few solid approaches to making a weight selection for your primary movements:

  • Reps in Reserve
  • 60-75% of 1 Rep Max Calculation
  • Subjective Biofeedback

To illustrate how each will work we will use one of our Tuesday workouts from the “Kid’s Camp” Cycle:

For 25 Minutes:
8 Push Press / 5 Push-Jerk (Strength Progression)
12 RKB Swing
12 Alt. MB Roll-Out
150m Run or Alternate

500m Row for Time

Strategy #1: Reps in Reserve Strategy
Let’s first focus on the main 8 Push Press version. Since most of us likely don’t know our max push press, we want to use the Reps in Reserve strategy. For something like 8 reps over the course of 25 minutes, a good approach would be to feel like on every set, you have 2-4 reps in reserve. This means that you could perform 12 reps is you need to, and then would be unable to perform anymore.

This is a very good strategy for beginners and for those a little less focused on their numbers and more on just “getting a good workout in.”

Strategy #2: 60-75% of 1RM
Now onto the Push Jerk calculation of 60-75%. Since those choosing this performance option likely know the whereabouts of how much they can push jerk, simply apply 60-75% of that to get a good rep prescription. This means if you can push jerk 225# then your working weight selection here would be 135 – 175#. Since 5 reps is kind of “a lot” for push jerk, we probably want to be closer to 60% over the course of a 25 minute workout. Experienced members can push the envelope a bit more.

This 60-75% approach can work very well in steering you towards your most productive workout for those who really prioritize their performance development.

Strategy #3: Subjective Biofeedback
If we need terms that are a bit less quantifiable and more subjective, you should focus on challenging but smooth technique. “Do I feel fast? Do I feel strong?” These are good questions to ask yourself as you perform your sets, and you’d be surprised about how accurate they can be.

Using the push jerk as an example, if you ever feel like your technique is slipping and you are muscling the weight up instead of propelling it up, it’s too much weight regardless of what calculation you might use.

Resistance is the key to driving adaptation, once you can move correctly. We encourage using these types of circuits as another chance to drive adaptation, aka get better at your movement patterns by challenging with resistance. But keep in mind, if your form/positioning is breaking down, you need to reduce the load. This is not an invitation for absolutely everyone to add more weight – but those who can, should.