Weight and Resistance Training - How much can you tolerate in dumbbell weight before it's too much?

10-14-2008, 12:26 PM
So, I'm back with the dilemma I experienced about 2 years ago with getting to a point where the dumbbells are too heavy but I need to go up in weight.

This is for my squats. I'm up to 35 lbs on each side now, and I swear, I feel like I'm getting gumbi arms that will have me dragging my knuckles on the ground soon. Plus, it really hurts my hands if that makes sense - not to mention lifting them to get them back on the rack. So I'm back at the point of looking at a barbell bc I don't think I will be able to hoist 40s up, and yet I haven't got the equipment to do the barbell yet. You may remember if you've been here awhile that I bought an ez curl bar thinking the curve was for your neck to fit in. I've struggled to find a bar that doesn't kill my neck so much that I can't even finish one set. I've used a towel, the foam from a pool noodle. I guess it just takes getting used to, but I don't even have the plates to make 40 lbs on each side. Before I go down that road again of pricing affordable plates, I thought I would ask, at what point you experienced people had to move from dumbbells to a bar. Is 35 really the breaking point, or should I just tough it out because it's really possible to carry 40 or even 50 lbs dumbbells in each hand? I just feel like my legs have more capacity to increase weight than my hands can support at this time. (I think this is why M&M use lifting straps, right ladies? Maybe thatwould help?) Thanks.

10-14-2008, 12:30 PM
You shouldn't be placing the bar on your NECK. :)

If you stand up straight and push your shoulders back, you'll find that your delts form a natural shelf right above your shoulderblades. That's where you rest the bar. And NOT an ez bar. Ouch! :) I can't imagine putting an ez bar on my neck - I can see where that would hurt.

I have never used barbells for a squat - I can't imagine doing so, because I think it would unbalance me. I also can see that I would pretty quickly exceed my grasp ability.

If there's a trainer at your gym who could help you in positioning the bar across your shoulders (not your neck), I think that would help you a lot.


10-14-2008, 12:35 PM
I was using barbells as well to do my squats, but then I got to a point where holding the weights in my hands threw me out of proper alignment. My form was getting totally screwed up and it was hurting my back more than helping my legs. I switched to the max rack and have never looked back. I'm squatting twice as much as I ever did with the barbells with absolutely no stress on my arms or back.

10-14-2008, 12:44 PM
Check out this video for proper squat form:

This one shows you that the bar is NOT on her neck, but across her shoulders and delts:

This one he teaches the overhead squat, but still very clearly stating that the bar is over the SHOULDERBLADES, not the head or the neck:

Hope that helps some! :)


10-14-2008, 01:09 PM
I have never used barbells for a squat - I can't imagine doing so, because I think it would unbalance me. I also can see that I would pretty quickly exceed my grasp ability.

Chick, did you mean to say DUMBBELLS for a squat here? I'm confused if not.

10-14-2008, 01:20 PM
First I want to say wow on the 35 lbs on each side -

At the gym I go to we use a body bar - which is basically a slightly padded and weighted bar bell. I have no idea how much they cost or how heavy you can get them but just an idea. Most people in class put them across there shoulders, but some hold them in the crook of there arms - kind of x your arms across the front of you and place the bar in the elbow bends. I hope this makes sense. That is the modification for those that don't want it across their neck

10-14-2008, 01:21 PM
Fran: I made the transfer to the Olympic bar and a squat rack when the twenty pound dumbells became too light for me. The transition was because I felt it was safer to squat in a rack as I progressed with a heavier weight and because of hand size. I'm such a delicate, small creature ya know. :lol: Really, gripping two 45 or 50 pound dumbells in my hands is not the way for me to go. ;)

Seriously, spend an hour with a personal trainer and have someone coach you through a squat session with a bar. Review the videos before as well as after and keep studying the squat as well. There are so many things to keep in mind when doing them it does take time to find the best spot on your delts. There's high positioning and low positioning. I have mine checked every once in a while too.

One of the most important things to remember about your form in that your shoulders are squared and pulled back. Tight. Your core is tight, your chin is slightly up, and your hips, glutes move back like you were pushing the wall out behind you. Probably a lot like what you are currently doing.

Good luck.

10-14-2008, 02:23 PM
I have a 35 lb kettlebell I can hold with one hand, the 45 lb kettlebell requires 2 hands :) My dumbbells go to 25 lbs.

I squat with a bar and I do try to make a shelf. I'm still trying to perfect my squatting though.

10-14-2008, 02:37 PM
Chick, did you mean to say DUMBBELLS for a squat here? I'm confused if not.Whoops. Sorry, yeah. My fingers got ahead of my brain. :)


10-15-2008, 11:08 PM
At my gym they have a rubber neck thing that clips on the bar to sit properly on your shoulders, I think it's called a Manta-Rae or something like that. It makes squating much easier on the shoulders.

10-16-2008, 08:34 AM
I use the foam roller pad that goes around the barbell with velcro to keep it there. Fran, without a squat rack, I doubt you can do much more with a barbell. At home, (no squat rack), I do front squats and overhead squats with the bar with at most 15 pounds per side, because I can't do the hoist up to shoulder level with more.

An alternative would be single dumbbell squats, but if you have problems racking the 35s, that may not be an option. I can manage to pull a 95 -105 pounder off the bottom rack, do a set and put it back. I find it much easier to keep my form good with a single weight. Hold it by the plate at one end with both hands.


10-16-2008, 10:23 AM
Thanks Mel. Mine max out at 55 so going to one won't help me here. I do have a very basic squat rack, so that is an option. It came with the new bench I got last year, I just didn't get the right barbell and plates to go w/it because I was staggered by the price. Here is my bench and rack set. The bench pulls apart from the rack, which is nice so you can get in under the rack for a squat. Only downside from reading the reviews is that I would have to get a 7' bar as a 6' is too narrow, and some women complain that a 7' bar is too heavy and unstable for them to use. Won't know til I try I guess. I also bought this bench because it had an atch for doing hamstring curls, but unfor, the angle is bad and the padding insufficient and it feels more like a torture device.


10-16-2008, 11:01 AM
and some women complain that a 7' bar is too heavy and unstable for them to use.Nah. I use an olympic bar, which is 7' and 45lbs. A lot of the stability comes from where you hold it .. .and if it's balanced properly across your delts, then it's not going to be unstable. This is one of those areas where form is everything. The first time I did squats unsupported, I thought the same thing. I fell into that "women need smaller" mindset again. But once my trainer taught me the proper form, I realized that the olympic bar was just fine.

One thing ... once you get used to the weight of the bar and learn where to settle it on your shoulders, most trainers advise that you lose the foam roller padding. It makes it easier for the bar to slip or turn on your back. The narrowness of the bare bar actually works for you, in fitting into the "shelf" made by your delts and shoulderblades. When you add the padding of the wrap, you remove that benefit.


10-16-2008, 11:15 AM
I think I'm still working toward building my "shelf". I still really have a fatback right now with no type of definition. Thanks for the tip!

10-16-2008, 11:20 AM
I've never been able to do squats using any significant weight without my beloved squat pad. Up to 100# -- no problem but over that, I get nasty bruises even when the bar is in exactly the right place.

Fortunately the bar doesn't slip or roll because of the way the pad velcros tightly around the bar. I've seen some worn out pads in the gym that do have a tendency to roll, but it's because the padding is worn out and it doesn't fit tightly around the bar any longer.

A lot of women don't have enough muscle or fat on their backs and shoulders to protect themselves from a fully loaded squat bar. If that's the case, a squat pad is an acceptable aid. :) I know I could try and build massive traps, but it's just not a look I'm after. :lol:

10-16-2008, 06:45 PM
I was about to type Meg's reply. I make sure that I use a good, NEW foam pad. I have had old ones roll on me and it's scary. But if I have more than 100-120 pounds on me, I bruise or get broken blood vessels. The hack squat does the same thing to me. I call them "squat hickies". ;) Lifting straps and heavy dumbbells also cause the same problem, so sometimes when I leave the gym I look like I've been bound and mauled :dizzy: Took some 'splaining at home at first.

10-16-2008, 07:53 PM
True... true. I'm not saying you should never use a pad. I'm saying that my trainers (all 3 of them) have told me that you're better off NOT using a pad than using one. But this is another YMMV type of thing.

I'm just passing along what I've been taught.


10-16-2008, 08:15 PM
One of the first things I was taught when I started lifting heavy was how to bail out from under a squat bar without getting hurt. It's something that I teach anyone who squats with an Olympic bar. I've never actually had to do it, but learning how and practicing so you aren't scared to make a loud noise may save you from injury.

10-26-2008, 01:45 AM
How do you bail out from an Olympic bar during a squat Mel? I would be very interested in knowing about this please. I am going to take a look through my books here, and see if there is anything on this. I never thought of possibly needing to bail out sometime, and how to handle it. :)

11-04-2008, 06:44 PM
wow... how long did it take to work up to that amount of weight?

I just started with some 5# weights, and its kicking my butt! I get winded, and was so sore the next day!

11-05-2008, 09:28 AM
I'm guessing that quetion's to me and my 35#?

Not too long. My lifting routine is to do 3 sets of increasing weights with decreasing reps. So I started, about a month ago with one set of 12 reps, 3 lbs; 10 reps on 5 lbs; 8 reps on 8 lbs. Then the next time I lifted, if I felt strong at the end of the last workout and didn't have immense sore muscles afterward, I would up that to 12 of 5, 10 of 8, and 8 of 10, and keep moving up each workout like that. It didn't take me long to move up to 35 as I seemed to sail thru the lower weights. I think doing it progressively really helps you move up. You could keep doing 5's, or, you could throw in a challenge and try to eeek out 8 reps on 8 lbs. While it is 50% more it's not that difficult to move up.

11-07-2008, 07:34 AM
I only use the foam roller padding if I'm trying to increase my max squat and/or my shoulders are killin'.

Like any exercise, it IS all about form. When you put the weight over your shoulders, try to push it up a tiiiiiiny bit with your hands. You will not *actually* be pushing it up in any way, just simulating the motion. It does wonders for taking the weight off your shoulders.

Before squatting, make sure that the bar is placed EXACTLY in the center of your back (being a little off center can really hinder your progress) and positioned in a comfortable spot between your delts and shoulder blades. Trust me; there IS a comfortable spot. Sometimes, it takes awhile to find it, but it's there.

And of course, the more you challenge yourself (and the more you do it), the easier it gets. You will eventually build your "shelf" too - and I do know all this from personal experience - back in March, I could barely squat the bar. I HATED the way the weight felt on my shoulders and I pulled a muscle in my thigh from going ALLLLLLL the way down (which is unnecessary - going down to the ground is potentially dangerous depending how much weight you are using - despite the fact that some meatheads insist it is the only way). Now? My max is 315 :eek:

theloula - I am not Mel, but I can answer your question. Push the weight back and push your body forward /duck/run as much as you possibly can. :lol:

11-07-2008, 08:33 AM
I do NOT put the bar on my shoulders- believe me, I know how to squat. I have fibromyalgia and there truly is NO bearable position for heavy squats without some padding. For years other people told me I just didn't know how to do front squats correctly either, because only an unloaded bar is bearable. There is NO PLACE on my forearms that is comfortable. One rep at about 1/10 the weight that I can normally squat is screamingly painful.

If you need a pad and are doing the exercise correctly, use it.


11-07-2008, 11:00 AM
The thing about bailing from any weight is that you can't be afraid of dropping the weight and making noise. If you have to bail, it's better to have the weight crash to the floor and everyone in the gym turn to look, than it is to hurt yourself.

I've never had to bail with the bar, but I've had to bail on a set of military presses once (something popped in my shoulder) and I really did just let the weights crash to the floor. It was a tad embarassing, but at least I didn't hurt myself.