The Best Dumbbell Weight for Women

The Best Dumbbell Weight for Women

In absolute terms, assuming the same muscle mass, women can lift weight equivalent to men, explains the exercise prescription site ExRx.net. Due to physiological differences, on average, women have about 55 percent of a man's upper body strength and a little over 70 percent in lower body strength. All of which means nothing unless you are going up against men in competition. If you are just looking for the best workout at your gym, the best dumbbell weight for a woman -- or a man for that matter -- is based primarily on your goals combined with some trial and error to determine your strength.

Women's Weights
Women may think they can't lift heavy weights due to dumbbells often referred to as "women's weights" -- sometimes in pastel colors to emphasize the point -- that start at lower amounts. While standard gym dumbbells start at 5 or 10 pounds, the "women's" set may start as low as 3 pounds. These weights also increase in smaller increments on the lower end, with standard dumbbells going from 5 to 10 to 15 pounds and "women's" from 3 to 5 to 8, then 10 then 12 pounds. After 15 pounds, both sets follow the same increase pattern. This means nothing: Men benefit from a 12-pound weight and women can jump right to 15 pounds provided they have the strength to lift that weight with proper form.

Repetitions
If your goal is to feel good, stay healthy and perform day-to-day activities such as lifting and climbing, use repetitions as a guide for the best weight to lift. Eight to 12 repetitions with good form for two sets, or 12 to 15 repetitions with good form for one set means you've found a weight that's best or perhaps too low. The benefits of one set or two sets are just about equal -- bodybuilders need more sets, but recreational athletes benefit from one set using a heavy weight. In either case, form is critical to avoid injury. Pick the dumbbell weight with which you can complete the lower number of reps, without breaking form. Continue at this weight until you can complete the highest number -- 12 or 15 -- at which point, move to the next highest weight or a more challenging exercise.

One-Rep-Max Guide
If your goal is to build muscle strength, compete or simply challenge yourself, use the percentage of the one-rep-max method of choosing your dumbbell weight. Your one-rep-max is the maximum dumbbell weight with which you can perform an exercise only once without breaking form. As ExRx notes, women can generally handle a higher percentage of their one-rep-max for more repetitions than men. For example, if your one-rep-max is 30 pounds, 75 percent of that weight for women, or about 20 pounds, is the best weight to complete a standard set of eight to 12 repetitions. To build muscle, do fewer reps -- for example, five -- at 80 percent, or about 25 pounds.

Body Type
A woman's body type also comes into the picture when choosing the best dumbbell weight, explains the American Council on Exercise. Some women have bodies that build muscle easily and they won't need to increase the weight they lift as much or as often. Women with body types that are thin and angular or more rounded and robust will not build muscle as fast and should use heavier weight for fewer repetitions, ACE suggests.