When anyone talks exercise, invariably weights come up: they are meant to provide resistance in order to strengthen your muscles, help you lose weight, and create the body you’ve always dreamed of.

Now let’s talk weights

The answer to how much you should be lifting is “it depends”. What I mean is that the pounds/kilograms you lift always depends on your goals, experience, and tolerance.

Generally speaking, we break down the amount of weight you should lift into two categories: the first one is going to be building muscle, and the other is to get lean and burn fat. If you’re looking to maximize new muscle fiber creation, it’s essential that you lift heavy. This will create small tears in your muscle fibers that encourage the growth (hypertrophy).

The second one is getting lean. Everyone wants that beach body! Surprisingly enough it’s not that hard to attain it if you understand a few basic fundamental principles: how much weight you should lift when your goal is to get shredded will be less than if your goal is to build muscle. Increase your reps, decrease your weight, and decrease your rest time in between sets in order to activate your endurance muscle fibers.

Build muscle

Do as much weight as possible. When your goal is to put on mass, you should try and aim for the most weight you can handle without harming yourself, of course. If things feel too easy, when you don’t feel your heart is working harder, try upping your weights by five-pound increments. If that doesn’t work, try more until you find your sweet spot.

Get shredded

High repetitions and less rest time. The common misconception (especially for women) is that if you lift any weights at all you’ll get bulky. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Lifting a reasonable amount of weight without straining during your exercise will tighten and tone your muscles, but not make you bulky. Your goal is to get your heart rate up and burn calories!

Build muscle while burning fat

This is a more advanced strategy that you can apply after you understand the fundamental principles listed previously. This will take some time, but once you fully understand how your body responds to these weight lifting protocols, you can begin to synergize them to get the best of both worlds. What we’re really doing here is continuing to build muscle while staying lean at the same time. But, of course, you have to first get your body to the point where you’re satisfied with your muscular composition. Then it’s just a matter of getting lean and staying lean.

There you have it: your fundamental guide to how much you should be lifting. So set your goals and stick to them for a designated period of time—the most common mistake I see is that people will set a goal and not stick with it, and then become discouraged because the results aren’t as good as they expect.

So fully commit yourself 100% to building muscle or getting shredded, and you’ll be glad you did!