So, you’ve been exercising for a while now–whether it’s been at the gym, doing a bodyweight routine, or taking classes–but you’re no longer noticing any changes in your body. Your muscles don’t seem to be getting bigger, and much of your workout routine feels pretty easy now. The likely reason is that you’ve hit a plateau because you’re not lifting heavy-enough weight. Could be that you instinctively reach for the 3-lb. dumbbells in your barre class to do curls while weight training when realistically you could easily be using 10-lb. dumbbells. Or perhaps you’ve spent 8 weeks in a strength training class but you’re still using the same dumbbells. So the big question is how do you determine just how much weight you can actually lift?
First of all, let’s be clear on one thing–you are not going to bulk up overnight! Now some of you might get very excited to hear that increasing the amount of weight that you lift will get your muscles defined. However, there may be some women out there who fear this outcome. Rest assured, this will not happen. If you are specifically looking to bodybuild, then you’re going to be spending hours upon hours for weeks and months to get your body to look that way, which is not the goal for most of us. Also, women don’t have the hormone profile to pack on a ton of muscle. What they will do, however, is increase lean body mass, decrease fat, and enhance self-confidence.
So fact of the matter is this–lifting heavier will challenge and change your body for the better. And how you do it–meaning, the specific exercises that you’re doing, the amount of weight you increase by, and the repetitions scheme –will help you to tailor the results. So, what’s your plan?
1) Begin small–Figuring out the right amount of weight to use depends on the workout you are performing. Have you been doing it for a while now or is it relatively brand new to you? If you’ve never performed a certain exercise with weight before it’s a good idea to have a warm-up self-assessment. Think of the amount of weight you think you’d be able to lift, then take 50% of that amount. Try a few repetitions with that weight. It is very critical that you maintain proper and correct form throughout the entire exercise. If that weight feels easy, then gradually work you way up in weight by doing a few repetitions at a time. Once you find a weight that feels challenging, and you have to slow down in order to complete your repetitions with good form, then use that weight for your first set. So not only do you now have a pretty good idea of the correct weight to use, but you’re also now warmed up for your first set.
2) Be aware of when it’s time to increase the weight–Whether you’re working out with kettlebells, dumbbells, or barbells, the question remains “how and when to add more weight.” A good indication of whether or not to go heavier is when you take a look at the speed of the lift and how you feel after you complete your sets. If you slow down and struggle with the last few repetitions, and you’re short of breath, then that’s a fairly good indication that you’re using the correct amount of weight. If, on the other hand, your last few repetitions are pretty easy and fluid and you’re going at normal speed, then you most likely could bump your weight up a tad.
3) Determine exactly how much weight to add–When I mention about adding weight, I’m not talking about gigantic increases! But if you continue to lift, push, and pull the same amount of weight week in and week out, then you can expect to plateau, meaning you will not likely see gains and create that lean and strong physique. Figure on adding weight every 1-2 weeks. But slow and gradual, like, 2 to 2 and 1/2 percent heavier than the week before. You’ll soon learn to find that balance between pushing yourself and listening to your body’s limits.
So what’s the takeaway? You have to be aware of the fact that there comes a point where lifting light weights while performing high repetitions will become a waste of your time. If you’re looking for more of a challenge and a change in your body (and hopefully you are), then follow the tips above.
Do you or someone you know have questions on how to get started with a strength training program? Call my office at once at (302)691-9055 or visit my website at www.wildermanphysicaltherapy.com to schedule your FREE 30 minute consultation to see how Physical Therapy can help. Don’t delay–schedule now!