Go Big or Go Home

I like to spend time at the gym, but I insist that time be used effectively when I’m there.  If you’re going to strength train, then make it count.  Continued results depend on lifting heavy, and heavier.  I see so many dedicated women at the gym day in and day out lifting too little weight and just going through the motions.  They are wasting that precious time they’ve set aside to be there, and it’s sad to watch.

Now that is NOT to say that you can’t switch things up and do some light days and some heavy.  I have learned that with my recent new program.  After a year however, you just can’t be using the same 5 lb dumbbells you started with no matter what intensity you’re going for!

with dumbbells in hand
the pictoral definition of ‘not heavy’

When in doubt, go against your initial reaction and choose a heavier weight.  I bet you’ll surprise yourself.  For some reason workout plans for women seem to be programmed to go too light, while men’s tend to do the polar opposite and choose something hernia-inducing.  Think more like a man when you approach the weight rack or stack and choose a weight that’s worthy of you!

I also want to point out that you don’t need to do 1,000 reps to ‘tone’ and keep from being bulky.   I work between 3 or 4 sets of 8-20 reps as a general rule.  More than 20 reps means you’re not working hard enough, and it just feels like cardio to me.   Fewer than 6 reps, and the weight is too heavy.

The goal is to complete the movement with good form for each rep, with the last two being pretty tough.  Grimaces, grunting and contorted expressions are good indicators of hard work here.

Now by lifting heavier, I DON’T mean you have to compromise your health and safety, like I see so many of the men do.  I love that ‘I’m gonna kill it’ attitude, but to go heavier you don’t have to add a ton of weight.  In fact, you only have to add more.

plate on stack
Isn’t this little 2.5 pounder cute?

More is defined by an increase over what you did last time and whatever you can handle.  It may be 5 or 10 pounds, and as a woman it may even be just 1 pound.  I tend to work in 2.5 pound increments, since that is the available convention for most dumbbells and weight plates at my gym.  However, depending on the exercise, even 2.5 pounds is too much to add for an entire set.

For example, I have a hard time progressing on dumbbell curls.  When it’s time to increase the weight, I’ll go up from say 22.5 lb to 25 lb using drop sets.  I cannot complete 8 reps using the new weight, so I’ll do as many as possible during my first set, say 4.  Then I’ll drop the weight back down to 22.5 lb and complete the set.  I’ll repeat this process for each set, and usually by the 3rd or 4th set, I have abandoned the 25 lb entirely, and am back to 22.5 lb.

This is progression, because I lifted heavier than the last time, if only for a few reps.  I make note of the 25 lb completed reps, and plan to gradually increase that number until I can do all sets of 8 reps with the new 25 lb weight.  This may take months to complete, but as long as I’m progressing each time, I know I’ll see results.  If you’re working on a cable machine with a weight stack, I know the increments can be vast, even as much as 20 lbs.  You can make smaller progressions by attaching a 2.5 lb or 5 lb weight plate to the stack with the pin.  It may take some finagling, but you can make it work.

week 1 journalDOCUMENTATION 

Since I’m getting older and more senile by the day, I  have to write this stuff down.  I use a log for every workout to make sure I’m always upping the ante.  I’m pretty anal about recording each workout, and I get kidded a lot at the gym, but I always know where I am, and where I’m going with my workouts.

Which moves challenge your progression?