Just How Heavy Do We Need to Lift?

For full disclosure…I lift for my general health. I’ve long since come to the realisation that at 5’7 and 160lbs at 56 years old, I’m never going to be a mass monster or strength athlete. I’m comfortable with that. Consequently the weights and reps sets I use reflect my goals.
Recently there have been a few posts about lifting heavier weights for lower rep sets as a help towards health goals. I’m not sure how necessary this is. How strong do we need to be?
Personally I feel that there is a point in terms of weight used / volume etc where the risks start to outweigh the benefits, certainly for those of us with less than stellar ambitions.
The general public look to the elite for inspiration, motivation and advice…but as this video shows, their goals are different, and looking to them is not necessarily a good idea if our goals do not match theirs.
Yes the examples in this video are extreme…but it just serves to show how different the training and striving for different goals can be and it may therefore not be a good idea to draw ideas from the elite, without putting it through that filter first.
( I do like the videos that this guy puts out…I would recommend them…informative and entertaining…worth a watch)

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There are some exercises that have been promoted as almost “God tier” like by many. The big barbell exercises such as the squat, bench press and deadlift spring to mind.
Others however question their risk to reward ratio.
The fans of certain exercises state that they are safe IF performed correctly. BUT that assumes that we live in the world of the “perfect rep”.
Can anyone honestly state that they have performed every rep that they have ever done in perfect form?
Even with perfect form, some exercises are just more dangerous to perform than others. If your goals don’t require it, other than sheer enjoyment, why do it?
This video shows the possible downfalls of doing the deadlift.


Is this thread posted with the intent of discussion? If so, what are you actually asking?


I am not sure if you asking a question concerning yourself or just making a public service announcement.

Lifting heavier weight will come with some additional risks over lighter weight, especially if the form gets poor. But you must be able to self determine when your form breaks, or if you ever had proper form.

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Pretty heavy


Define “perfect form”. Some of the strongest guys and gals out there make lifting heavy ass weights look pretty damn ugly.

I racked up more injuries in pursuit of my running ambitions in a former life than I have in my lifting aspirations… Boxers get hurt, cyclists crash at high speed, footballers break bones… Sport sucks sometimes, regardless of the level it’s performed at.

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For any given exercise (especially compound movements) perfect form for one person might not be close to good form for another person. You must self determine your perfect form for every exercise.

I know this is not the answer you were hoping, but just the reality of the human body. Proportion of limb length and torso length will alter the perfect squat form from one person to the other.


It is a massive stretch to jump from “done with good form” to what is quoted.

The vast majority of reps I’ve ever done were far from perfect, but were good enough and did get done.



Rage against the dying of the light. At least that’s where my midlife crisis mind has been lately. But I’ve always lifted smart (mostly). Eventually the numbers won’t matter anymore. My training has always bounced around “I feel strong and awesome,” to “holy shit Im fat and and gotta lose weight,” to “fuck I feel weak, I gotta get stronger.” Pretty consistent cycle of mental illness :rofl:

Oh, and fuck the, some lifts are dangerous stuff. I watch all my out of shape friends bitch about their back issues while I’ve deadlifted twice a week for 10+ years. I’ve been injured and it was my own fault. Most injuries are.


The body is an amazing, adaptive organism. Injuries usually occur when people attempt things they aren’t prepared for.

A thought: What if getting injured doing an ugly rep of an exercise was down to not enough ugly reps, rather than not enough perfect reps?

Perfect technique prepares you for perfect situations. You said it yourself: not every rep is perfect.

I’m going to keep lifting heavy with a variety of challenging exercises, because that’s cooler than the alternative


Thanks to a Pulley Tear in my left hand, I have had to work my way back up on any exercise involving grip (especially deadlifts). I have already limited myself to SLDLs for a long time, even before my injury. My best workout poundage was nothing to brag about, probably around 350lbs for 5-6 reps. Post-injury I have only worked up to 185 x 4. My SLDL reps have a moderate negative (3 secs), a pause at the bottom, and then I start the pull slow and accelerate to the top. The main change is that I do 2-3 work sets vs 1 previously.

I’ve only worked back to ~1/2 my previous weights, but perfect form has been perfect, and my hams and glutes have never been better!! My preferred squat movement is pivot/leverage machine hack squats, which I currently take up to 375 lbs. I also do Bulgarian split squats on a bench, holding a DB in one hand. I’ve also recently been doing Dr D’s DB Squats and Tippy Toe Wall Squats with little more than my BW.

I relate to raging against the dying of the light despite being young. Due to Elhers-Danlos, heavy for me when I started was a 3lbs floor press, 3lbs db row and a curl with some light band, so I had to develop a bunch of workarounds to be able to lift anything at all. Even though my joints are noticeablely better now, I still use these workarounds since they allow me to lift reasonably close to my 1RM and/or failure when I decide to push a set.

  • Actively squeeze the muscle you want to work instead of moving the weight from point A to B. Like on a curl, don’t even think about doing a curl movement. Instead, just focus on squeezing your biceps. Joint pain disappears when I do isolations this way. Stole this from @T3hPwnisher from an article on his blog.

  • Band pull aparts and similar movents before pressing. This took me from a 3lbs floor press inflamming my shoulders to me being able to press pain-free on DBs now, even when going heavy. Got this from my PT and also from T3hpwnisher’s blog. Also got this from an old post by @BrickHead , maybe on his old username?

  • Hamstrings before Quads. Stole this from Meadows, and it makes my hips and knees feel a million times more prepared for a squat/lunge.

  • Do all pressing on DBs with a neutral grip. It’s so much more forgiving on the shoulders, elbows and wrists.

  • Pause every movement. Keeps the weight lighter, puts more focus on the muscle, and leads to better form since every rep is like it’s own mini-set. I’ll pause curls at the top for a 3 - 5 count, rows at the top for 2 - 3 counts, RDLs at the bottom for 2 counts, DB pressing at the bottom for 2 counts. Even a small pause helps since it stops the set from going sloppy. It also gives an immediate pump which takes the tension away from the joints, at least for me. Like on a regular DB row I need to do 8+ reps to get a pump, while on a paused DB row I have a good pump after 3 reps.

  • Slower eccentrics

  • Do forgiving variations of movements. Like a drag curl instead of regular curls. Hard to get elbow pain even if going heavy on drag curls.

Just wanted to list out my workarounds that allow even me to go heavy and with more volume than ever. Also wanted to give thanks for the workarounds that I learned from the posters here! Also, fuck all of you with normal bodies :rofl:


The way I see it is there are dramatically fewer injuries in weight training than there are in other sports. With weight training you don’t have to deal with the randomness of other people. A ton of people do their ankles in playing soccer, or tear a hamstring playing Rugby, we don’t question it - it’s just part of the parcel of the sport.

We pick our own endeavors for our own reasons based on how we want to live. Nothing else matters really. Your back doesn’t feel great but you’re close to reaching your lifelong squat goal? You decide whether it’s worth it. Deadlifts hurt and you no longer care about getting your PR up? Don’t do them anymore or lower the intensity. It’s the only sport that you can continue with whilst changing your own rules so acutely. Honestly, I just don’t think it’s a debate that needs to be had.


“A thought: What if getting injured doing an ugly rep of an exercise was down to not enough ugly reps, rather than not enough perfect reps?

Sorry but that is just misplaced thinking. Doing something “different” just to “toughen up” the body…well it just doesn’t work like that. It will break you down, not toughen you up. Probably more a matter of “when”, not “if”.
There are nationally accredited guidelines for lifting and lower back safety in workplaces for a reason. Lower back pain is one of, if not THE main cause of sickness days from the workplace.
I’m sure that anyone with long term disability from lower back pain, from manual work, probably rue their previous “ugly” lifting form.
And the thing is…you may not finally “snap” doing the exercise that is the culprit. You may spend years deadlifting with atrocious form, only for your back to finally go as you bend down to pick a pencil off the floor. Life…and our bodies are funny like that…


“Is this thread posted with the intent of discussion? If so, what are you actually asking”

If you want a title for the discussion, I suppose it could be…
“Do the exercises that you have chosen and the way that you perform them, match your overall goals? If so, why?

In my opinion…if you are aiming to deadlift 500lbs+ for a single or a handful of reps and you claim to be exercising for general health, then this is not a good match.
It’s just one example…I’m sure that there are many others.

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Well if there are ( and there are, that I will concede) less injuries in weightlifting than other sports, due to the lack of “randomness” from other people…then that makes any injuries incurred by the lifter probably doubly silly. The blame for an injury then falls on the lifter, their choices and their performance.
You actually, ( probably unknowingly) supported my argument.

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I wasn’t posting to support or oppose your argument, just to give my 2 cents as I feel the answer is never binary. If I’m a struggling father of 3 working a 60hr/week job that requires physical soundness, I’m not gonna be pushing myself to grind extra plates on my deadlift. That risk can be the folly of the person involved - we’ve all got to make our own choices. If I’m a childless financially sound office worker with big dreams of winning his first meet, I might train insane.

“Just how heavy do we need to lift?”


"Just how heavy do you need to lift?

Let all our reasons be all our reasons.


This is key for aging lifters. It also explains why some of my muscles are bigger than ever, even while the weights I’m using are 30% less than my prime! Great Point!!

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The majority of what you’re talking about in this post actually comes down to joint instability, not load selection.

If the joints are stable, have good range of motion and the prime movers are strong, one can lift a significant weight, and tolerate some unusual loading, actualy creating more stability and strength.

Injury from instability Will happen though when a muscle group or groups is under-recruited, weak, or the tensions in the joint are imbalanced.

Shoulder subluxations caused by pronation are a prime example of this, as is forward hip rotation or anterior pelvic tilt- caused by too much tension/shortening of the quads and ITB, which speaks to range of motion, tension imbalance And under recruitment of major muscle groups of the posterior chain (glutes/hams).

This can then be exacerbated by creating instability of the spine and subluxation of disks, among other things.

THATS when you bend over for a pencil, sneeze, and “blow your back out”, but its not nearly as accute as it would appear. This only happens after an accumulation of other weaknesses and instabilities that have very little to do with loading.


I am just not sure what point he is trying to make in this thread. He phrased it as a question but seems to already have the answers. :woman_shrugging: