To make gains, you need to gradually increase the difficulty of your workouts. As your workouts get harder, your muscles will become bigger and stronger.
This is the concept of progressive overload. Exercises must place additional stress on your muscles, either by lifting more weight or doing more reps. Over time, your muscles adapt to the stress, and you must once again increase the weight or reps. This is the marker of progress.
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However, progressive overload can be a bit complicated. Weight percentage adjustments, exercise types and progression schemes are typically left to strength coaches or hardcore lifters. Besides trying to lift more weight on a few exercises, you might not be putting much thought into this aspect of your training. And this is the number one reason for poor results. If you don't continually challenge your body, you will never make progress.
Luckily, there's a simple solution. The following system has progressive overload built in, so it virtually guarantee that you will make gains. All you need to do is compete with yourself each week.
Here are five steps to knowing when you should add more weight to an exercise:
Step 1: Choose a Volume
Choose a Volume
No, we aren't talking about the volume of your music. Volume in this context refers to the number of sets and reps you do of an exercise—or it can be the total amount of work you do in an entire workout.
With strength training, you will fall into one of two general categories:
Hypertrophy (muscle building), which requires a moderately high volume—3 or 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps.
Strength and power training, which typically involves 3 to 6 sets of 1 to 6 reps. The exact number depends on whom you talk to and their style of training. To keep things simple, we generally prefer 4-6 sets of 3-6 reps.
For the next steps, let's assume you're trying to do 3 sets of 8 reps.
Step 2: Choose a weight