You have been working hard, lifting weights and are getting stronger. You know that to get stronger you will need to increase the amount of weight you are lifting. But how much weight should you add and when? You are at a crossroads in your training. This is the point where many people make the mistake of adding weight too soon.
So, how do you know when to add more weight to your exercises?
The answer is not as simple as it may seem. Ask yourself why you want to be stronger. Do you need to lift more weight to maintain or improve your health or fitness level? Will lifting more weight help you to burn more calories and improve your body composition? Will lifting more weight improve your sports performance?
If the answer is “yes” to any of these questions, then you will need to increase the amount of weight that you lift. If the answer is “no” then look for other ways to improve such as increasing the amount of sets or repetitions that you perform, decreasing the rest between sets or adding variety with different exercises to your routine.
Now that you understand that increasing the amount of weight you lift will move you closer to your goal, how do you safely go about increasing the weight that you lift. Here are a few guidelines:
1. Only increase the weight if your form is good. Adding weight to poor form puts you in a risky position and increases the chances that you will get hurt. Adding resistance to poor form reinforces bad technique and will result in some form of compensation which will eventually result in injury or poor mobility. Do not sacrifice tomorrow’s health and fitness for a momentary gain today.
2. Only increase the weight if your range of motion is good. Range of motion is the full movement potential of a joint. Our muscles pull on a joint to make a part of our body move. When we contract our biceps, the muscle pulls on the bones in our arm to move the lower arm. The length that the arm moves is called the range of motion. Training the full range of motion helps keep our mobility, improves strength and maintains joint flexibility.
3. Do not increase weight if you have joint pain while lifting. Tendons and ligaments take longer to develop than muscles. If you are experiencing joint pain your body is not ready for more weight. Joint pain can also be a sign of arthritis or injury or may be a result of improper lifting technique. In any exercise remember, muscle before movement. This means that you should engage or contract the muscle you are targeting before you pull with your arms. In a cable row exercise, this means that you should contract the muscles of the mid back to initiate the row. Your arms pull after the back, not before.
Follow these guidelines and only add weight to your exercises if adding weight is safe and will help you get closer to your goals.