When it comes to lifting, the universal number for strength, power, and muscle growth is between 15 and 25 total reps per exercises. (That could men 8 sets of 3, 5 sets of 5, or 3 sets of 8.) The classic programs hit these numbers, and they get results.

But finding the perfect weight to complete all of your sets can be problematic. You want a load that will push you, but also one that will leave enough in the tank for you to finish all of your reps with good form.

That’s why I use Goldilock’s method. It can help you figure out if a load is too light, too heavy, or just right.

How to Do It

Pick a weight and do 25 reps with it of any of the following exercises: military press, bench press, row, squat, or trap bar deadlift. Your reps must be clean and you shouldn’t miss a rep.

Rest when needed. Keep track of the total number of sets it takes to finish all of the reps, and then find where your number falls in the categories below.

TOO LIGHT

Number of sets: 1 or 2

TOO HEAVY

Number of sets: 8-plus

JUST RIGHT

Number of sets: 3 to 5

Needed 6 or 7 sets to finish 25 reps? If you can usually handle this load, my guess is that you may just be tired or burning the candle at both ends.

Take a break for a few days and try again. Then, if you hit 6 or 7 sets again, lower the weight.