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Gym Equipment: How Much Weight and Repetitions?

When we get  members at our health club who are new to our gym equipment, I often take them around to show them various exercises. This is especially true if they have any physical problems, such as bad knees, hips ,back etc. I usually go over  things, such as proper form, motion, etc. I am inevitably then asked “How many repetitions do I do and at what weight setting?” I tell them what I learned from Doug Brooks, my favorite authority on weight training. I start at fifteen reps, picking a weight that will result in “volitional fatigue” after the last rep. This means they could do 5 or 6 more reps if they tried hard, but I suggest that they stop there. The client has to determine for his/herself what that weight is. If they think they could go on for another 10 or 15 reps, they aren’t using enough weight: if they have to struggle to complete number 15, they have too much weight. For the first week or two, I recommend only one set. As they get stronger, they can then add more weight and/or drop the number of reps and do more sets, up to 3. Little is gained by doing more than 3 sets for a particular muscle group. I rarely drop the number of reps below 10 for the average client. And I emphasize the basic rule that they only exercise the same muscle every other day. Remember, there are few limitations to weight training based on age or physical problems. You can work around and through almost anything.