Lifting weight is the best way to gain muscle and build your strength. It also has a host of other health benefits, including improving your bone health, helping you maintain a healthy weight, and even providing cardiovascular support.
It’s relatively easy to get started lifting weight, especially if you don’t have much prior experience. But if you’re passionate about this exercise, or if you just want to see results faster, you’re going to be motivated to extract more value out of your weightlifting routine.
So how can you do it?
Getting More Out of Your Weightlifting
These are some of the best strategies for getting more out of your weightlifting routine:
1. Hire a personal trainer. Don’t scoff at the idea of hiring a personal trainer. For some people, personal trainers seem too expensive to be worthwhile. Other people believe they already know everything there is to know about weightlifting and fitness. But the truth is, most people who hire a personal trainer eventually go on to see much better fitness results and are far more satisfied with their workouts. A personal trainer can help you perfect your form, put together the right training routine, and can guide you through various plateaus and setbacks. On top of that, it can provide you amazing motivation to do your best.
2. Perfect your form. Next, perfect your form. Form is arguably the most important element of any weightlifting program. If you’re not lifting weight in the proper way, not only will you get less value out of the exercise, but you’ll also be putting yourself at risk of physical injury. Thankfully, there are several tools that can help you achieve perfect form. You can read about form online, watch videos to learn about common mistakes, use a mirror to correct yourself in real time, and work with a trainer or a partner to ensure you maintain good form throughout your routine.
3. Lift slowly. Aggressive and ambitious athletes often try to lift weight as quickly as possible in a show of strength and in an effort to minimize time at the gym. But it’s usually much more effective to lift weight as slowly as possible. This increases the amount of time your muscles spend under strain and forces you to maintain perfect form throughout each repetition. As an added bonus, lifting weight slowly is safer, giving you more control over each repetition and reducing your susceptibility to harm.
4. Prioritize progressive overload. Every competent weightlifter can tell you that you can’t make progress unless you’re truly challenging yourself. Progressive overload is the way to do this. In other words, you need to be constantly increasing the physical challenge you face, whether you increase the total weight you’re lifting or increase the number of reps you do in each set. If you get too complacent with your routine, you’re going to stop making progress.
5. Vary your routine. Consider changing up your routine from time to time. If you do the same exercises in the same order every session, eventually your body is going to become accustomed to this routine, and you’re not going to make as much progress. Add in new exercises on a regular basis, and experiment with little things, like placement or grip.
6. Hold the toughest position. On some reps, consider holding the toughest position before completing the exercise. Like with slow repetitions, this will increase the amount of strain that your muscles encounter and will therefore increase the effectiveness of the exercise. Just make sure you do this safely.
7. Experiment with ladder reps. Ladder reps encourage you to do “mini reps” at each stage of the exercise. For example, you can do a few mini reps at the lowest position, do a few mini reps at a medium position, and then do a few mini reps at the highest position. It’s an excellent alternative to work into your routine.
8. Squeeze in a few more reps at a lower weight. After completing your last set at a high weight, you may feel incapable of doing any more. But if you want to push yourself just a bit further, consider squeezing in a few extra reps at a lower weight.
9. Get assistance. Consider getting someone to assist you with some of your heavier lifts. For example, if you’re used to benching 200 pounds, try to bench 220 pounds with a bit of assistance from your spotter. In some ways, this is cheating, but it can also help you reach new heights you were struggling to reach on your own.
10. Focus more on rest and recovery. Finally, make sure you devote plenty of time to your rest and recovery. It’s not all about working out as hard as possible; in fact, if you’re working out too much, it can work against you. Allow plenty of time between your hardest workouts, get lots of sleep, and eat plenty of food.
What to Do If You Hit a Plateau
Even following these strategies, it’s relatively common for weightlifters to eventually hit a plateau. During this period, you may find it difficult or impossible to increase the weight you’re lifting, or you may even experience a slight performance decline.
If you find yourself in the middle of a plateau, here are some quick tips to help you through it:
- Don’t panic. This is a common and natural occurrence.
- Take a break. You don’t need to break through the plateau immediately.
- Focus on smaller improvements. Instead of jumping from 200 to 220, try going to 205 first.
Everyone can benefit from weightlifting, whether you’re interested in losing weight, getting stronger, becoming a bodybuilder, or just prolonging your lifespan. And with these strategies, you can make sure you get the most out of every workout. If you’re interested in getting more advice on your weightlifting progress, or if you need some help putting together an initial program, contact me today!
Nathan DeMetz holds degrees in Exercise Science, Business Administration, and Information Technology as well as certifications in strength and conditioning, sports nutrition, run coaching, and other areas. His credentials come from organizations such as Indiana Wesleyan University, Ivy Tech College, Utah State University, and the ISSA College of Exercise Science.
Nathan has 20 years of personal and professional experience in the health and fitness world. He works with people from across the globe, including locations such as Kuwait, Australia, and the USA.
To work with Nathan directly on your personal training goals, contact him today!