How to choose the correct weights when strength training

Posted on: 6th February, 2017

Category: Sport & Fitness

Contributor: West Cork People

Originally from Clonakilty, Colin Murphy is a fitness professional, workout specialist, founder of the fitness website, certified personal trainer, author and blogger. He is an Ironman, sub 3-hour marathon runner, occasional CrossFitter and all-round fitness fanatic.

Colin fitnessStanding in front of a wall of dumbbells of all sizes can be quite daunting, even for an experienced exerciser. For someone who doesn’t have any idea which pair to pick up, the choice can be a highly frustrating mix of testing a few, struggling with a couple more, before finally giving up and walking disappointedly to the changing room. The fact that you are standing there and ready to take on the free weights section of your gym means you are prepared to take things up a notch, and shows you have the fortitude to make a good choice for your body and your goals. For a total beginner, weight machines are a great start, but if you want the best results possible then you will eventually have to progress to free weights. With a few simple guidelines you’ll be mastering your weights programme and walking around assuredly in no time!

Four guidelines for a confident weight selection:

How heavy and how many times?

This is by far the number one question that I get from my female clients. As I’ve spoken about before, the fear of bulking up is still felt by women new to weight lifting, even though, thankfully, that myth is disappearing little by little. The aim, when weight training for most women, is not to put on size but to build strength and shape. Words such as ‘leaner’ and ‘more toned’ often pop up in conversation. That wonderful shape you see from the women you admire comes from lifting a weight that is not too heavy, but is challenging all the same.

We are looking to be able to lift a weight ten times. As I’ve said, it has to be a little demanding to get that lean toned muscle we are after. Therefore, a bit of experimentation is needed. Pick a weight and try lifting it ten times, doing the exercise of your choice…let’s say shoulder press.  As you go through the reps, your aim is to have rep numbers 8, 9, and 10 be difficult. Yes, you can finish to ten but it certainly isn’t a breeze! This number of reps allows us to push ourselves to develop shapelier muscle, but not to the point of coming anywhere near bulking up (If you are a beginner, then lighter weights will help you adjust to the new movements you will be doing). Aim for three sets of ten with a ninety second rest between sets.


How long have you been training? Bodies develop in a certain pattern as you train and build yourself into something new. First come the strength and neuromuscular gains and later the physical shaping begins to show on your body. A man or woman who has been active all their lives will have a pre-programmed ability to move themselves more naturally and efficiently than someone new to exercising. This is important to note, both for your own motivation and as an injury prevention measure. You most certainly will not be able to go at the same pace as your more experienced friend, and that’s OK! Don’t feel pressure to keep up with others. You are on your own individual journey that will take you to that health, strength and shape you desire. Be patient with yourself and always go at a pace that is comfortable for you, and allows you to continue lifting with correct technique and intensity.


We’ve all pushed ourselves to go to the gym when we really didn’t want to. Most of the time you quickly snap out of this funk after warming up for ten minutes, but other times you just struggle through. You are going to have off days because of tiredness, personal issues, or simply life throwing something unexpectedly at you. On these days it’s very acceptable and wise to reduce the weight you are lifting by about ten percent to give your body and mind a chance. This could happen as often as once a month, so as long as you are aware that these days are normal, you won’t beat yourself up over it. Whenever I am in no mood to train, I quickly reduce my weight and, at times, change up my routine so that I quickly get some fast wins and build up momentum. This helps me to power through the session and leave feeling like I have accomplished as much as a regular session. The more you regularly train, the more often you’ll know when to truly nurture yourself and when to push past what you’re feeling.

Your Body

When you weight train for the first time, you’re going to be sore the next day. Your body will have experienced something it has never gone through before. Weight training pushes your body out of its normal state and therefore you’re going to get some push back. This comes in the form of muscle soreness. Training causes tiny micro tears in your muscle fibres. It is when your body repairs these tears that the muscle and your body get stronger. Learn to celebrate the soreness! It’s your body’s way of letting you know that it’s busy building an updated version of you. Some soreness lasts two or three days so don’t let this give you an excuse to miss a session. Unless you have injured yourself and are in some serious pain, then regular muscle soreness should not stop you from getting your next gym session in. Get back to the gym and crush your next workout. You’re learning a new skill so enjoy that initial struggle. I promise it doesn’t last too long, and in no time at all you’ll be lifting like a seasoned pro.

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Wave to Mary! 65-year-old Mary Nolan Hickey is running around the entire coast of the Island of Ireland to raise funds & awareness for the RNLI and is currently running the roads of West Cork.

Mary is the only woman to have completed every single Dublin Marathon (all 38 of them). She’s also completed the grueling Marathon des Sables in the Sahara Desert, known as the ‘toughest foot race on earth’.

To mark her 50th year involved in Athletics Mary is taking on her biggest challenge yet (even though she thought she’d already done that when completing the Dublin Marathon when she was over six months pregnant!) She wants to raise as much money as possible for the RNLI.

Mary started her epic journey in Arklow, Co. Wicklow, on New Year’s Day. She aims to cover up to 5000 kilometers, using coastal routes, over the next five months. She hopes to get back in time to get her first pension payment in June when she turns 66.

Mary will stop off at as many RNLI stations as possible, on her once in a lifetime adventure. As far as she knows no other woman has ever taken on this challenge.

Speaking about her journey Mary said:

“I wanted to prove that age not a barrier. Coming from a coastal town I have a deep affinity with our local RNLI station & volunteers and have huge admiration for the brave men and women who risk their lives to save lives at sea”.

Mary, who’s depending on the goodwill of communities along her route for accommodation, has been astounded by the response so far. “The support has been overwhelming,” she said. “I have met the most amazing and encouraging people along the way”.

To see more about Mary’s adventures, and to pinpoint her location today, check out her Facebook page - rnlilapofthemap2018.
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20th March, 2018  ·  


This Saturday the 10th March, will see some magically curious activity as local Bandon national schools compete in a Wizarding Harry Potter Quiz. The prize will be the beautiful Bandon Banshee Perpetual Cup.

As any Harry Potter enthusiast knows, Bandon has the unique honour of having a character named after the town. The Bandon Banshee, was referred to as the nemesis of Gilderoy Lockhart in the Chamber of Secrets. The book grossed €60 million in sales and was the 7th highest earning film of all time.

Locals, looking to enhance the town for young people, saw the quiz as an ideal way promote the connection. The universally absorbing book series brings young readers on a huge adventure of magic, adversity and triumph. It is also an exploration of loyalty and friendship, good and evil – so it is not only popular way to engage young people, it is a hugely positive connection.

Zoe Tennyson, one of the organisers said they were delighted with the response from schools who ran a qualifying quiz as part of World Book Day. On Saturday Bandon Town Hall will be transformed into Hogwarts Great Hall, with proceeds going Bandon Playground Group, and to cover costs of the event.

Bandon Books will be rewarding the winning team with vouchers to each of the five members. The Bandon Banshee, or Bean-sidhe na Bandaan Perpetual Cup will be hotly contested – but which school will the Banshee go to??

If you have any questions please call Marguerite McQuaid on 087 900 9494
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8th March, 2018  ·  

Ballineen Foróige Young Engineers Exhibition 23 February 2018

The inaugural Ballineen Foróige Young Engineers Exhibition will take place in Gort Mhuire Hall in Ballineen this Friday 23rd February. As part of Engineers Week 2018, leaders and members of Ballineen Foróige Club have organised an exhibition which will showcase a diverse and exciting range of engineering projects that have been undertaken by members of the club over the last few weeks, with the aid of leaders and a number of local engineers.

With the aid of local pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, along with the support of STEAM Education, a UCC based company focused on promoting science, technology, engineering, arts, and maths subjects in primary schools, Ballineen Foróige has been engaging members and leaders in all things engineering over the last six weeks. From researching, designing, and prototyping a project based on local problems, to participating in various workshops on coding and careers in engineering, Ballineen Foróige have been extremely busy in preparation for the exhibition this coming Friday night.

On the night itself, Michael Loftus, Head of Engineering at CIT, Fintan Goold, Manager at Eli Lilly and All-Ireland Cork winning Footballer, along with Geraldine Coughlan of GCA Architects & Designers, a local business, will act as judges on the night, evaluating the different engineering projects and offering some advice to the members of the club. Also in attendance will be the CEO of Foróige Seán Campbell, along with a number of local councillors, TD’s and Senators.

Leading the team of Ballineen Foróige leaders organising the event, is Rebecca Dwyer, a bioprocess engineer at Eli Lilly. Rebecca recently became a leader in the club and says that Ballineen Foróige Young Engineer Exhibition 2018 “promises to be a fun, challenging and rewarding experience for all involved and we look forward to welcoming parents, relatives, friends and members of the public to the exhibition and film screening on the evening of Friday 23rd February.” Overall, there are twelve projects entered in the exhibition. One project, led by Cian Kennefick and Charlie Nolan, members of the starting out club, examines the possibility of installing speed ramps on the road near local primary school. Fourteen-year-old Charlie says he got involved in the project as it was something to do and it gets you thinking. Cian says the most exciting part of the project was the building of the prototypes.

Both Cian and Charlie, along with thirty other members of the club will display their projects this coming Friday 23 February in Gort Mhuire Hall in Ballineen. Doors open at 8pm and the event runs until 10pm. All are welcome to attend, and admission is free. Catering, including tea and coffee, will be provided on the night.
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20th February, 2018  ·  

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Main course

17th February, 2018  ·  

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