By: Lisa Payne

Whether it’s your first day at the gym or you practically clock in with the staff, choosing the right weights for your workout isn’t a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. How much weight you lift can change by exercise, by day and even throughout the course of your workout.

An important thing to remember when trying to decide how heavy to lift is that you don’t always have to lift so heavy Thor would be impressed. The weight you lift is unique to you, your workout and your goals.

Here are a few helpful tips to help you decide how heavy to lift:

Endurance Strength

If you can successfully complete more than 25 repetitions of any exercise without fail, your weights are too light. Even in instances where you’re focusing on endurance (when the weight count is low and the rep count is high), you should still feel challenged. The last several reps especially should feel like work.

Go Heavy or Get Help?

Working within a safe weight range should always be your number one priority. Let’s say you’d like to bench press a heavier weight. Ask a spotter to help set up the Smith machine or to hand you the weights. When lifting heavy, you should do about 10 to 15 reps. If you can’t complete at least five reps, switch to a weight that’s lighter but still tough. This rule of thumb works for just about any exercise.

Good Form

Your form can help you determine the right weight. Let’s use a squat with a barbell on your shoulders as an example. If your knees jut forward or out, or your low back hurts, your weight is likely too heavy. If you can’t control the weight or your form (spotter or not), go lighter.

Don’t Just Tough It Out

No one likes to be derailed by a cold or an injury. But when your health is compromised, your body won’t have the same energy or utility it usually does. Modify your weight or give your body the day off if you’re not well. Recognize that not every day at the gym needs to be a throw-down.

Next time you’re at the gym, rate your energy, watch your form and ask for help. If you’re not challenged, nothing will change. But doing more than you can handle can work against you. Get to know how heavy to lift and you’ll make the most of all your workouts.