How much weight should a skinny beginner lift

How Much Weight Should A Skinny Beginner Lift? Use These Standards If You’re Not Sure!

Working out as a beginner can be confusing as heck. And one common question is how much should you be lifting? This post explains how much weight a skinny beginner should lift.

A skinny beginner should start working out by lifting weights that weigh between 2.5 to 50lbs (1kg to 25kg). The exact recommended weight will depend on gender, exercise choice, and the equipment used. Skinny men should generally lift more than women.

I used to be a skinny guy myself. And I still remember how confusing it was to choose the right weight as a beginner.

Below, I share my research and experience in choosing the ideal weight to lift!

How I chose the right weight as a skinny guy using these beginners weight standards.

Looking To Build Muscle At Home As A Skinny Guy?

If you’re interested, here’s the home gym setup I use and recommend!

The Ideal Rep Range And Weight For A Beginner To Lift

The average skinny beginner should begin lifting light weights using a moderate rep range first. A good starting point is to perform 10 repetitions using a weight that is 50% of the person’s 1 rep max. This allows their muscles to slowly and safely adapt to training.

A 1 rep max (also called a 1 repetition maximum or 1RM) is the maximum amount of weight you can lift for a single rep.

Trial and error is the most common way for a beginner to determine their 1RM for each exercise.

This involves lifting through a series of weights until you can no longer lift it with good form.

This weight would be your 1RM for that exercise.

There’s also another- safer and quicker- method for determining how much weight you should lift as a skinny beginner.

This method requires you to go on the Strength Levels database of user-generated 1RMs.

How to estimate 1 rep max as a skinny beginner.

Simply plug in your details to get an estimated 1RM for a specific exercise.

You would then half this to establish 50% of your 1RM for that particular exercise. Now you can lift this weight for 10-15 reps and be confident that:

  • It won’t be too heavy for you.
  • You’ll manage it safely.
  • The weight is still heavy enough to challenge and stimulate your muscles.

You should also note that lifting 50% of your 1RM is by no means considered a heavy weight.

But as a skinny beginner, it’s important to start lifting in a lighter and safer weight range and optimize from there, than it is to begin too heavy.

If the weight is too light or too heavy, then you can add or subtract 5-10lbs (2.5-5kg), respectively.

How Do I Choose The Right Weight? (LIFT RESPONSIBLY)

You may also be interested in Adam Schafer’s (bodybuilding and strength coach) tips on how to optimize your starting weight.

As a skinny beginner, I would recommend repeating this process for each exercise in your program and noting it down in a spreadsheet or notepad.

Recommended Starting Weight For Skinny Beginners To Lift

Generally speaking, male beginners should start with 10-50lb (5-25kg) weights and females should start with 5-30lb (2.5-15kg) weights. But it’s important to also consider body weight, exercise choice, and equipment type. These factors affect how much weight a skinny beginner can safely handle.

Here’s an overview of how much weight I would recommend a skinny guy/girl to lift as a beginner:

Resistance Training MethodIdeal Weight For Skinny Male Beginners To Start WithIdeal Weight For Skinny Male Beginners To Start With
Bodyweight (calisthenics)6 to 12 repetitions per set5 to 10 repetitions per set
Resistance bandsMedium 30-60lb band (15-30kg)Light 15-25lb band (7.5-12.5kg)
Weight machines10-40lbs (5-20kg)10-30lbs (5-15kg)
Dumbbells and kettlebells5-20lbs (2.5-10kg)2.5-10lbs (1-5kg)
Barbells10-50lbs (5-25kg)5-30lbs (2.5-15kg)
  • Bodyweight training- skinny men should aim to complete 6 reps per set for upper body exercises like the pushup and 12 reps per set for lower body exercises like the squat. Skinny women should aim for 5 and 10 reps, respectively. Once you reach these targets, then you can build your way up to 20+ reps per set.
  • Resistance bands- skinny men should start with bands that provide medium resistance whilst women should begin with bands that offer a light resistance. Increase diffculty by reducing your lifting tempo and increasing reps.
  • Weight machines- male beginners can start with a 10lb weight setting for isolation-type machines like the bicep curl and 40lbs for compound-type machines like the bench press. Female beginners can start with 10lbs and 30lbs, respectively.
  • Dumbbells and kettlebells- skinny men should start with 5lbs for isolation-type movements and 20lbs for compound-type movements. Skinny women should start with 2.5lbs and 10lbs, respectively.
  • Barbell- male beginners should start with 10lbs for isolation-type lifts and 50lbs for compound-type lifts. Female beginners can start with 5lbs and 30lbs, respectively.

If you’re a beginner and not sure if you should be lifting weights, then you may be interested in checking out my Skinny Guy’s guide to going to the gym and lifting weights.

Examples Of Dumbbell/Barbell Starting Weights For Beginners

Free weights such as dumbbells, kettlebells, and barbells have the largest room for error when it comes to safety.

Additionally, there can be large variances in difficulty between different exercises.

For example, most people can squat a lot more than they can bench press.

So here’s a more specific recommendation for how much weight you should lift as a skinny beginner for some popular free weight exercises:

ExerciseMovement TypeRecommended Starting Weight For MenRecommended Starting Weight For Women
Barbell bench pressCompound30lbs (15kg)15lbs (7.5kg)
Dumbell Bench pressCompound10lbs (5kg) per dumbbell5lbs (2.5kg) per dumbbell
Barbell shoulder pressCompound30lbs (15kg)15lbs (7.5kg)
Dumbbell shoulder pressCompound7.5lbs (4kg) per dumbbell5lbs (2.5kg) per dumbbell
Barbell rowCompound30lbs (15kg)15lbs (7.5kg)
Dumbbell rowCompound10lbs (5kg) per dumbbell5lbs (2.5kg) per dumbbell
Barbell squatCompound40lbs (20kg)25lbs (12.5kg)
Goblet squatCompound10lbs (5kg)7.5lbs (4kg)
Barbell deadliftCompound55lbs (27.5kg)30lbs (15kg)
Bicep curlIsolation5lbs (2.5kg) per dumbbell2.5lbs (2.5kg) per dumbbell
Tricep extensionIsolation5lbs (2.5kg) per dumbbell2.5lbs (1kg) per dumbbell
Lateral raiseIsolation2.5lbs (1kg) per dumbbell2.5lbs (1kg) per dumbbell
Dumbbell chest flyIsolation5lbs (2.5kg) per dumbbell2.5lbs (1kg) per dumbbell
Reverse dumbbell flyIsolation1lb (0.5kg) per dumbbell1lb (0.5kg) per dumbbell
Weight recommendations for 10-15 reps per set.

These are conservative numbers.

Depending on your current fitness levels, you may be able to lift much more than this.

But that’s not a bad thing!

If that’s the case, then add 5-10lbs to that particular exercise on your next workout.

Likewise, you should decrease the weight if you struggle with lifting it with good form.

The aim is to start with a safe and manageable weight and slowly increase from there (a method called progressive overload), all the while concentrating on mastering the correct lifting form.

You can check out my other post to find out the ideal workout duration for skinny guys!

Why Skinny Beginners Should Lift Light Weight First

Generally speaking, skinny guys are recommended to lift light weights first. This allows the beginner to practice lifting with good form, maximize muscle contraction, and lift safely. Once they have mastered this, they can increase the intensity by adding weight.

If your goal is to build muscle, then it is widely recommended to do 6-12 reps at 65-85% of 1RM.

But as a skinny beginner, you don’t want to lift this kind of weight right from the get-go.

Here are 8 reasons why:

  1. Light-weights facilitate good lifting form. Using a ligther weight allows you to concentrate on mastering your form. This is good practice to increase muscle activation and reduce injury risk.
  1. Lifting lighter weights is safer for skinny guys. Obviously you don’t want a fully-loaded barbell crashing onto your chest do you?
  1. Start slow to gauge personal strength level. Start light and see how difficult it is. You can always add more weight accordingly.
  1. Light-weights still benefit muscle growth. For most skinny beginners who have never lifted before, it doesn’t matter how much weight they lift, it will still be enough to challenge your muscles and get a good workout.
  1. Reduce the risk of overtraining. Training to failure is common with bodybuilders and elite atheltes. But it’s no good for a skinny beginner. It impairs recovery and muscle growth.
  1. Better mind muscle connection. Strength doesn’t just come from the muscles themselves, but also from your central nervous system. Lifting lighter weights allows you to proctice your mind-muscle connection as a skinny beginner.
  1. Increased peak contractions. Lifting a lighter weight allows you to contract the target muscle at the very top of the movement. This is extremely beneficial for skinny bginners learning to improve their mind-muscle connection.
  1. Allows for a greater range of motion. A manageable weight allows your arms and legs to move through a complete range of motion using controlled movements. This cannot be achieved with weights that are too heavy.

For more juicy details on how to improve your physique as a skinny guy, you can check out my other post which explains how to get a wider v-shaped body frame at home

Why Skinny Beginners Should Eventually Lift Heavy Weights

Skinny guys should start training by lifting light weights but eventually progress onto heavy weights. This is the safest way to apply progressive overload and keep the muscles challenged for growth. Lifting heavier weights is also beneficial for strength gains.

Here are 8 reasons why a skinny beginner should lift heavy weights:

  1. Progressive overload is essential for muscle gains. You will quikcly plateau if you don’t increase weight. That means stagnating muscle and strength gains.
  1. Mechanical tension builds muscle. Heavier weights provide more mechanical tension to challenge your muscles for strength and size gains.
  1. Increased neuronal recruitment increases strength. Lifting heavy weights leads to increased neuronal recruitment. As a result of stronger stimulation, you will also become stronger.
  1. Heavy weight training increases joint strength. Heavy weights cause your joints to get stronger and adapt. This allows you to lift even more weight in the future. It’s also good for everyday health and fitness.
  1. Stabiliser muscles become stronger. Stabiliser muscles are the small muscles surrounding your larger muscles. Heavy lifting recruits these muscles and allow you to become stronger.
  1. Bone density increases. This study has shown that progressive overload and heavy resistance training can increase bone desnity. This will help you to lift even heavier weights as a skinny guy.
  1. Increased fast twitch-fiber activation. These are a type of muscle fiber that is particularly responsive to growth. They are activated by heavy lifting and explosive movements. Recruit more fast twitch fibres transfrom a scrawny frame into a ripped physique!
  1. Better motivation to keep progressing. Training can get boring very quickly without making progress. Regular progressive overload can keep things interesting. Remember, it’s generally better to be muscular than to be skinny!

You may also be interested in my other article for a workout for skinny guys to do at home (with and without equipment).

Why Lifting Heavy Is Essential For Skinny Guys To Build Strength

Skinny guys can increase their strength by lifting heavy weights. Generally speaking, the heavier the weight a person lifts, the stronger they will become. This is due to the increased neuronal and muscle fiber recruitment that occurs through heavy weight training.

Neuronal adaptations usually come first.

That’s why some skinny guys can have a tremendous amount of strength.

It’s not necessarily because they have large muscles, but a strong central nervous system.

Powerblock Elite dumbbells have a variety of weights for skinny guys to build strength at home.

If you’re a skinny guy trying to get strong at home, then heavy adjustable dumbbells are ideal.

I use the Powerblock Elites (find the cheapest price here), which go up to 90lbs per dumbbell with these addon kits.

Flybird bench for skinny beginners to gain strength and build muscle at home.

If you combine it with a weight bench like this Flybird adjustable bench (find the cheapest price here), you have everything you need to build a solid base of strength at home!

You may also be interested in my other post to find out how heavy adjustable dumbbells go!

Do Skinny Guys Have To Lift Heavy To Get Big?

Generally speaking, skinny guys can get big by lifting heavy weights. Muscles require a sufficient degree of exercise intensity and stimulus to grow which can only be achieved through heavy weight training. It is also important to eat a high-calorie diet that is rich in protein.

Once you are comfortable lifting the weights described in this post, it’s time to increase intensity.

This is done through progressive overload.

The easiest way to overload is to simply add more weight- 5 to 10lbs is more than enough.

If you’re training at the gym, then this is fairly easy to do.

Just add bumper plate to your barbell or move onto the next heaviest dumbbell.

Powerblock Elites have light and heavy weight settings for skinny guys/girls to use.

If you’re training at home, then the Powerblocks mentioned above are perfect.

Each unit comes with a multitude of weight settings that can be selected with a pin.

Simply increase by 5lbs when you’re ready.

You might also be interested to check out my other post which explains how to bulk up fast for skinny guys.

Recommended Products Recap


I’ve explained how much weight you should lift as a skinny beginner.

Different skinny guys/girls have different starting strength levels. Additionally, exercise type and equipment will also affect how much weight a skinny person should lift.

But it is generally recommended to start light first.

Once your muscles have adapted to this weight, then you can apply progressive overload to continue making strength and muscle gains.

You can use my weight recommendations as a starting reference.

How much weight do you lift as a skinny guy/girl?

Let me know in the comments!

You may also be interested in the downloadable Kalibre Blueprint PDF which details exactly how I gained 40lbs of lean muscle (it’s 100% free!). It details the exact exercises and nutrition I used to go from skinny to ripped!

Thanks for reading guys!

Peace Out,


(Biochemistry BSc, Biomedical Sciences MSc, Ex-Skinny Guy)

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