Tactical Fitness: Working with Weights in a Resistance Program

Tactical Fitness: Lifting a barbell


I have a few questions when it comes to your workout sets and circuits.  1. How much weight should I start off with when I'm doing the barbell movements?

Good question. First of all, any barbell movement can be replaced with a dumbbell or kettlebell motion if you do not have a barbell. I usually have a repetition range or a time range per set. For instance, if a workout says:

Repeat 3 times:

  • Bench press 5-10
  • Pullups max reps 1 min
  • Plank pose 1 min

This is a classic push, pull, core circuit. Make the push a bit heavier and the pullups focused more on reps. The core "resting exercise" is a plank pose.

You should find a weight that you can just barely do within that 5-10 rep range. So you can go 75-80% of your max weight and shoot for 5 reps, or lighten it up and go to 10 reps. If ten reps is too easy, then increase the weight so that it is not.

Now for the timed sets. Most people cannot do pullups for an entire minute, so do what you can. Rest a few seconds, change grips and try again until the 1 min period is complete.  If you cannot do but a few pullups, then do what you can and resort to pulldowns or rows for the remaining time.

Same would go for weighted sets for 1 minute.  Do what you can (light weight) and when you cannot do anymore – make it lighter if you have time by pulling the pin on a machine or having a spotter drop a plate from the barbell.  Having lighter dumbbells near you is a good option to complete the 1 minute set.

2. How often should I increase the weight?

It depends on your goals.  If you are trying to increase your overall strength and maximum lifting power, try to add weight each week.  If you are working on more muscle stamina and endurance, then increase reps by pushing yourself so you may just have 1-2 reps left in you.

I hope this straightens up some things with the workouts. Even though the workouts are generic and not personalized to you specifically, you can still manipulate them to fit your day or even long-term goals.  If it makes sense and is moving you toward your goal, give it a try and see if the results follow.  If you are failing to see the results you seek in 3-4 weeks, try another version and find what works best for you.

Stew Smith works as a presenter / editorial board with the Tactical Strength and Conditioning program of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS).  There are also over 800 articles on Military.com Fitness Forum focusing on a variety of fitness, nutritional, and tactical issues military members face throughout their career.

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