Please Lift Heavy
I have a small request to make.
If the title of this Letter is an indication, which it should be, my request is this:
The next time you enter the gym, please lift heavy.
Now, if you’re just starting out on your fitness journey, hold off on the heavy weights for a bit. But know that this should inevitably be your focus.
How exactly would we define “heavy?” That’s a great question.
Technically, we could define heavy as a certain percentage of the weight you would use for your one rep max (1RM) of a given movement. Say 75% and greater.
That’s a good way to define it specifically.
We could also consider a weight that, on a 1-10 difficulty scale, registers an 8+ on the last few reps of your set. Almost to the point of failure but you can still power through.
I bet you that weight would be pretty heavy.
We can even take this one macro level higher.
If you’ve been using the same weight for a given movement for more than four weeks, it’s probably time to increase your weight a bit.
One caveat is the number of weeks increases, not necessarily from 4 weeks but in general, as we get into heavier and heavier weights since progress tends to slow at higher weights.
It should be fairly well obvious that “heavy” is going to vary drastically from person to person. Someone who has been lifting for a decade is likely to be throwing around much higher numbers than someone who is just starting out.
But with all this talk of lifting heavy and what it looks like, you might be wondering why I would make such a request in the first place.
One of the things I see all too often is that we get comfortable in our training routine. Now, the sheer existence of a training routine in your life makes me happy. The fact that you’re getting to the gym on a regular basis puts you well ahead of the general population.
But once we get to the gym, we often fall into a similar routine. If you train solo or in a group coaching program, you likely gravitate toward a similar weight each for particular movements.
Twelve-kilogram kettlebells for the thrusters, a fifteen-pound steel mace for the ballistic curls, and a sandbag with one filler for the zercher cleans.
Good stuff across the board.
But what’s going to happen is your body is going to adapt.
That’s largely the whole point, right?
But while our bodies are starting to adapt, we aren’t. At least we aren’t adapting our training approach.
And then we wonder we aren’t making any progress.
It’s because, quite literally, we aren’t. Our data points create a straight line.
To get the dial moving again, we need to force our body to adapt.
Or rather, we need to give our body something to adapt to. It needs to be presented with the opportunity to adapt. If it doesn't have a reason to, it won't.
Now, if you’re not necessarily comfortable increasing your weight, you can also modify the number of sets and reps as well too which would also increase the total volume of weight moved.
But I will say that if you aren’t comfortable, then you may be best served to work with a trainer to help you move through that discomfort. He or she can ensure proper form and make sure that you have the skills and motor controls that will significantly reduce the risk of injury.
That place of discomfort, well, that's where all of your precious gainz are hiding.
The point I’m trying to make in all of this is that you’re likely going to benefit from taking a good look at your training and how you’re showing up to the gym. Consider your last month of workouts. I’m not saying you need to recall each one in vivid detail but were there any movements you moved up in weight?
If not, try using the next weight set up, even if it’s only a marginal increase. Go through this exercise (pun somewhat intended…ok, very much intended) every so often and you’ll very rarely find yourself hitting a plateau.
Pick things up. Put them down. Then pick up something heavier.
P.S. Ladies, please pay particular attention to my next Letter. We’re going to specifically look at why it’s so important for you to focus on heavy weights and to dispel some of the myths around “getting bulky.”