The Low Down on Upping Weights
We all reach a point in our training where it seems like we’re just going through the motions. Like robots, we go to the gym knowing exactly what to do, how many reps to do, and mindlessly, complete them. We finish our workout, and wonder where the 45 minutes went, because we were on autopilot. It’s like those mornings where you drive your kids to school early, and before you know it, you’re at the school dropping them off, but have no idea how you got there. Sometimes we finish workouts and feel like nothing happened; we don’t know how we got to the end because we just went through the motions.
This scenario is just as ineffective as it sounds. While it’s (slightly) unsafe to drive your kids to school on autopilot, it’s useless to workout on autopilot. How can you ever make progress without effort? How do you expect to reach your goals if you’re not busting your butt every single day? How can you make your body change if you don’t give it a reason to?
In physical training, we talk about something called the S.A.I.D. principle, and it is one of the most basic and important concepts upon which your training should be based. In fact, your goals and progress depend on it. S.A.I.D. stands for “Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands”, and it essentially means that the human body adapts specifically to demands you place on it. Essentially, whatever you throw at your body, whether it’s physical, biomechanical, or neurological, your body will adapt. An article from BetterMovement.org explains it perfectly, “Let’s take some simple examples. If you place mechanical stress on the bones of the body by shock or impact, this will set in motion simple physiological processes that will thicken and harden the bones in the exact area of stress. For example, the place where your heel bone strikes the ground will be very hard and dense. The dominant arm of a tennis player will have larger bones than the opposite arm.”
What this means to you is that if you want your muscles to change, you need to impose different (read: harder and heavier) demands on it! So get going and get growing! If you curl 10lb dumbbells for 15 to 20 reps and don’t break a sweat, it’s time to move up the rack, and grab those 15 lb-ers! Sick of benching with 15lbs, great! The 20lb dumbbells are calling your name. So don’t be scared of picking up something a little heavier; your body will thank you for it by transforming. You’ve hit a plateau because you’re not lifting enough weight – it’s that simple. If you’re worried about bulking up overnight just because you move from 10 to 15, rest assured that will NOT happen. Growth (like fat loss) has more to do with nutrition than weight. So unless you start eating for size, you won’t get bigger just because you’re lifting heavier.
When it comes to how/when to make the change, start small. Increase the weight by maybe 2-2.5lbs; just pick up the next size dumbbell. You don’t have to make huge jumps.
As Bikram Choudhury (the founder of Bikram Yoga) said, “If you can, you must.” So challenge yourself now, and thank me later.
1) Keep a weight training log/journal either online, in a hand-written book, or in an app, so that you know how much you lift each session. This way, you can determine if/when/how you can increase the weight or the number of sets or reps.
2) Increase in small increments, like 2, 2.5, or 5lb ‘jumps.’
3) Increase your weight if 15+ reps is easy
4) Increase your weight if you’ve stopped seeing results
And don’t forget, as you increase your weight, it’s OK to do fewer reps. It’s not expected that if you can bench 55lbs 15 times, you’ll be able to bench 75lb 15 times as well.