Is it normal, after 3 years of weight training, to find the 28kg dumbbells too heavy (more than 16kg) when I grab them on the rack (they weigh all over the whole upper body and I hold them, vertically, at arm's length)? How to gain in energy at this level?

I would like to increase my energy, or power, in order to grab the 28kg dumbbells as if they were about 16kg and that this feeling of lightness lasts at least 1 or 2 minutes. How could I do this?

Informations about me

My aims

I want to make gains in muscular mass (hypertrophy) and, consequently, in power. In other words: I want to bodybuild, not to powerlift. I don't want to loose fat (even if you find 25% BF is too high on the above pic, I find my body OK).

My program

I know how to work out for bodybuilding. I don't want any advice to hypertrophy my muscles.

The only advices I expect from you on this SO question is: how to increase my energy, or power, in order to grab the 28kg dumbbells as if they were about 16kg and that this feeling of lightness lasts at least 1 or 2 minutes?

Monday (2 hours, it's perfect for legs)

Hips thrust, squat focus quadriceps, legs press (for quadriceps AND hamstrings AND adductors), romanian deadlift, legs curl superset legs extension and lunges on the pull-ups assistance machine.

4 sets for each exercise

Tuesday (1h30)

Chest on machine (15 sets during my whole work-out), bench press with dumbells (5 sets), lateral elevations

Wednesday (1h40)

Pushdown for back, diverging lat pull down, vertical pull down (close and neutral grip, tilted backwards), horizontal rowing, pull-ups, dumbbell bird

5 sets for each exercise

Thursday (1h40)

Military dumbells press, machine anterior deltoids, lateral elevation, dumbell bird, dumbells shrugs, machine shrugs with free weights

5 sets for each exercise

Friday (1h40)

Bottom pulley curl superset Pushdown for triceps, Neutral grip dumbells curl superset Dips for triceps and anterior deltoids and chest (so, the dips are executed tilted forwards), Curl in supination at the high pulley (while standing) superset French press with the bar, Curl at the bar in pronation grip superset side triceps to the pulley (with rope)

5 sets for each exercises (but 4 sets only for both exercises of the superset including the French press).

Calves and abs, lumbar

They are done on the rest pauses of some exercices for which I'm naturally good (example: pushdown for back). I do abs at the pulley or leg lifts while suspended, and calves at the bar for squats (calves extensions).

I also work abs and lumbar the week-end (crunches, abs board on ball: dynamic sheathing, leg lifts while lying down, dragon fly, oblique abs with dumbbells).

Rets pauses

2'40min approx. between sets (or between supersets)

The way I work-out

I'm going to fail. After the failure, I wait 10 seconds maximum, I do 6 repetitions (depending on the exercise and the load used, I do these repetitions without lowering the load), I wait 10 seconds again, I lower my load and I do as many repetitions as I can (often 4).

When I do 14 or 16 reps that fail, I increase the load to about 6 or 8 reps and restart my progression until I reach 14 or 16 reps that fail.

My results

With this program, I have gains in hypertrophy and in weights too. Especially in weights of machines. It's harder for me to have progress on squat and bench press (but I do have progress on deadlift and pull-ups and dips).

  • 1
    What do you do with them if you can't rack pull and hold them? Do you deadlift? What else do you do? Normal doesn't matter. The average person has trouble lifting 28 kg dumbbells, that's normal. If you can't do something, either your technique (more information) is bad or you are not strong enough (more information). Post your program please. 3 years doesn't matter even without context. A 50 year old guy that weighs 60 kg, trains once a week, has a desk job and didn't do anything with their hands in decades can't expect the same results as a 90 kg 21 year old born athlete
    – Raditz_35
    Jan 19, 2020 at 15:05
  • 1
    In your post, you wrote that they are too heavy to grab and hold. Now you can suddenly do 38 kg. That's pretty heavy and a significant difference. What surprises me is that after 3 years, you have trouble articulating what you are actually doing. The weight is fine, normal, whatever. If you think you are not strong enough, not progressing as you should, post what you do to get stronger. How much do you eat? What is your program? How well do you progress with your major lifts? I get your goal, you want things to feel light, but after 3 years, I think you should be able to make more useful goals
    – Raditz_35
    Jan 19, 2020 at 15:34
  • 2
    Dear lord, that's some workout. Where did you get it from? How much do you progress in your heavy lifts? Are you familiar with a concept called progressive overload? I think I have an idea about what do do, but your plan is filled with useless stuff to the max (when it comes to getting stronger), I worry about what happens if one would suggest more stuff for you to do
    – Raditz_35
    Jan 19, 2020 at 17:44
  • 2
    I'm not suggesting power lifting. If you have trouble lifting 28 kg dumbbells, you need to get stronger. Once you've reached a certain point, you can include more assistance exercises.
    – Raditz_35
    Jan 19, 2020 at 18:00
  • 6
    Yes, it's normal for 28kg to feel heavier than 16kg, no matter how strong you are.
    – The111
    Jan 20, 2020 at 1:48

3 Answers 3


I've read through the question and most of the answers and comments. Essentially, if you want 28kg to feel easier or lighter, you will need to get stronger. This is the only way. There have been numerous answers and comments telling you this and some great suggestions on how to do this. E.g.not lifting to failure.

However as you've said multiple times yourself, you don't want to do any training that's remotely outside of the strict ideas you have about bodybuilding. You don't want to change any of your training or exercises. So i'm having a lot of trouble understanding why you could possibly think that you'll find 28kg lighter by not changing a single thing about your workout.

This is a quote from yourself: "I don't want to do powerlifting ("when it comes to getting stronger" -> that's not my aim), I only do bodybuilding".

If i take this quote into consideration and you have absolutely no desire to get stronger. The answer to your question "how can i make a 28kg dumbell feel like a 16kg dumbell?" is: You can't. If you don't want to get stronger, it will never feel any lighter than it does currently.

I guess the only solution for you is to buy weightlifting straps.

As a side note, you come here looking for an answer. Got an answer that you didn't like, and then assumed everyone was wrong rather than trying to take on board peoples advice and trying to adapt it to your own personal training style.


If you want the 28kg DBs to feel as light as the 16kg ones or what you are used to right now, you need to train to be able move much heavier weights than 28kg.

This is how it works, a lot of the strength is limited by mental strength, your body has to percieve how heavy a weight must be so it can prep your body for it. Once you do something heavier than before, your body has a new limit, the previous weight won't seem as heavy as before but the new weight will feel heavy.

So if your limit is 1kg, and it feels difficult to hold, and you train yourself constantly and reach a limit of 3g, that previous limit is going to feel really light now. Your body is acclimated to a much higher weight now.

So, in short, if you want the 28kg dumbbell to feel as light as 16kg is for you right now, then train your body with heavier and heavier weight until you reach a 40-50kg limit. For example, if you are benching with 50kg dumbells, 28kg is going to feel like nothing, that's just 60% of your max training weight.


this is going to be short and lack some explanations because I don't have a decent keyboard right now, but this is what I would do:

1) train legs twice a week with those deadlifts. Legs are the #1 thing to getting stronger. Deadlifts and squats will additionally work your entire body. Your core, your grip, your back, even your shoulders. That's what you need to pick up those weights.

2) do farmer walks. Grip dumbbells and move instead of just standing there.

3) don't go to failure on most lifts, especially compound lifts.

4) google "progressive overload". Use it in those farmer walks to get better at holding Dumbbells and so on

Once you know the basics, once you have enough strength, you should be able to lift more. If you absolutely have to focus on unpacking dumbbells, apply progressive overload: lift heavier weights as you progress. This will make lighter weights seem lighter

  • Thank you for your complete answer. However they don't apply to someone who wants to do bodybuilding (that's my case). There isn't any bodybuilder who drops arms and shrugs. Farmer walks are not useful for bodybuilders. Going to failure and doing forced reps are the common way to hypertrophy (bodybuilders do it commonly). I do progressive overload :) . I don't want to follow a program to get stronger, but I only want to, specifically, precisely: be able to feel the 28kg like 16kg when I grap them and hold them from the rack ^^ . But thank you for your answer! I have upvoted it anyway:). Jan 19, 2020 at 18:04
  • By the way , if I train my legs 2 times a week with my legs work-out, it's sure I won't progress^^ Idem for the other muscular group. I can't train 2 times a week with such works out, they are too intensive and voluminous Jan 19, 2020 at 18:05
  • That's exactly why I say farmer walks and more leg work like dead lifts. There isn't a strong border between strength training and body building. If you are competitive (at 25% bodyfat, I'd assume not), then you should already know what to do. Your question specifically asks how to get stronger, not how to body build when unracking dumbbells. I'm no expert, but what you are doing looks like something very old school for advanced builders. Is that what you are?
    – Raditz_35
    Jan 19, 2020 at 18:07
  • " There isn't a strong border between strength training and body building" => sorry but a powerlifter doesn't train as a bodybuilder does, and the results on the body are of course totally different. Moreover: competitive bodybuilders are commonly at 25% of BF and more, when they are not close to a competition. My question doesn't concern strength (btw I have tagged it "bodybuilding"). But just "how to be able to feel the 28kg like 16kg when I grap them and hold them from the rack" (if you have tips or something else). There isn't old school bodybuilding etc. There is only 1 way to bodybuild Jan 19, 2020 at 18:18
  • I've just done a quick google search. Every program I found for natural body builders doesn't feature a lot of shrugs and arm day, focuses on compound lifts and does legs at least twice a week. What you are proposing is, well, high volume, 25 body fat and more, that's for steroid users.
    – Raditz_35
    Jan 19, 2020 at 18:19

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