Do you lift weights and feel you’ve eventually hit your plateau? Or perhaps, are you wondering how you can improve your muscle fitness? Do you doubt yourself if you could ever lift more weights despite your size?
Why does weight training even matter? Let’s begin with this question. While you need some cardiovascular exercise to boost your stamina and enhance your endurance, muscle fitness is also essential.
For one, if you don’t exercise your muscles, they undergo a process known as atrophy, which is simply muscle wasting. The atrophied muscles may become weak. Unless you retrain them, they can only limit your physical activity in the long run.
But it’s also not enough that you follow the same strength and resistance routines all the time. At some point, you need to add more to what you’re doing, including enhancing your ability to lift weights.
Why? Science dictates that when muscles are used, the body has no other choice but to repair and eventually replace them. The body bonds the muscle fibers, forming new ones. Imagine yourself piling up your clean clothes. The more you fold them and put them on top of one another, the more the stack becomes thicker. When it comes to your body, the muscles then grow.
Building and toning your muscles is more than aesthetics. It is significantly helpful for weight loss since the muscles burn more calories to maintain them than fat. Moreover, with these types of training, you develop and increase your strength. You, therefore, increase the level of physical activity you can do. It may be even useful when you find yourself in difficult real-life situations such as lifting an unconscious person.
But here’s the thing: muscle growth doesn’t happen overnight. It is a gradual process. To help you figure out what you should do to experience a progression, here are 11 tips:
1. Begin with a plan.
If you want to improve your strength and define and tone your muscles, consistency is key. Otherwise, a period of inactivity may lead to strength loss within two weeks. But how often should you lift weights? For beginners, start with twice a week. “Failing to plan is planning to fail”.
2. Know your minimum weight.
Always start with the lowest weight you can lift. It is no use if you lift heavier weight and result to improper execution of an exercise. If you want to challenge your muscle, when choosing weights, find those that are slightly uncomfortable for you. For example, if you find a 10-pound dumbbell easy, then go for the next weight.
3. Start with small reps.
Usually, a muscle fitness routine involves three sets repeated at least eight times, but that is not a hard rule. You can always begin with three sets of 10 reps and increase every workout schedule or the following week or two. This way, you can focus on form and technique, as well as avoid overstraining or, worse, injuring your muscles.
4. Learn the best time to add more weight.
If you feel more relaxed during the workout, then you know it’s time to add more weights. Or else, you become more prone to plateau or lose motivation since the workout is coming out easy for you.
Progressive overload is a process of adding more stress to the body during an exercise routine or training. When done right, it can increase muscle mass quickly since you’re constantly adding the demand to your muscles. Here are different ways on how to do it:
5. Add resistance.
If you wish to lift a heavier weight, you need to develop a stronger muscle. But you cannot achieve that unless you add resistance training into your routine. What it basically does is to increase the muscle demands, compelling it to work against a force. Once you’re comfortable adding more weight, you can then move to increase your resistance gradually. If you’re lifting 20 pounds, you can do three sets of 3 reps. Then you can add 5 more pounds on each side of the bar then repeat the three sets of 3 reps. Repeat the process until you become comfortable with the added weight again.
6. Boost your frequency of training.
Again, it’s never a good idea to over-train or over-exercise our muscles. You need to give them more time to recover because that’s how you build them: allowing the cells to make the repairs. But if you have some body parts that still need more definition or even strength, you can increase the frequency of training. Instead of 2 to 3 times a week, you can add one more day.
7. Increase the number of reps.
Reps are different from sets. The sets refer to a group of exercises that focus on certain muscle groups while the reps indicate how many times you have to do the set during a workout. Usually, the sets are enough to target the right muscle groups, so the next best option is to increase your repetition.
Increasing the reps may mean spending more time during the workout. If you want to retain your number of hours of training, you can reduce the rest time in between the sets.
Ideally, the reps are between 8 and 12. If you’re a beginner, most likely, you start with 3 reps. To do a progressive overload, you can increase that to 5, then 7, then 9. You have the option to repeat the sets more than 12 times, but you are more likely to increase your endurance than strength.
8. Increase the sets.
Another way to do progressive overload is to increase the set. This is ideal if you want to speed up the definition, strength, or toning of a specific muscle group.
9. Make the exercise routines more difficult or complex.
While safety should still be your priority when doing your muscle training, it is helpful to add more complex or difficult routines. You also have the option to create new sets.
10. Don’t forget the cardio.
The heart is a muscle too, and it needs all the loving like the others. Besides, a cardiovascular routine can further improve your endurance. But here’s the thing: cardio and weight training have different goals. Cardio helps in the weight loss while weight builds and enhances the muscle mass. It is ideal to schedule your cardio in between your off days.
11. Don’t give up!
It’s so easy to get frustrated with muscle building. The earliest will be a month for beginners, and even then, it could be you’re just gaining them. They’re not increasing in size yet. Be patient and don’t give up. It’s normal to undergo fluctuations, especially since bodies come in different forms and reactions.