How Much Weight Should I Be Lifting When I Workout?

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question-icon-newMy question is about the amount of weight I should lift when I workout. If I lift a medium amount of weight per exercise and do this for 3 sets of 10 reps, would this be sufficient for gaining muscle mass? I weight train 3 days a week and although I feel a burn during my workout, I’m just wondering if keeping this training style will yield any results or if I should modify my repetition and sets scheme in order to produce better results. What do you recommend?

answer-icon-newThere are many aspects you need to understand when it comes to designing the best overall plan for building muscle and getting stronger. A general rule of gaining strength and mass is that the more muscle you can recruit with the exercise, the more weight you can lift and the more muscle you can build. In order to get big, you need to lift big heavy weights!

Your mental attitude is also crucial for lifting heavy weights and packing on mass. From day one of your training routine, you should be very aware of approaching a workout in the correct frame of mind. It’s hard to get great results by just walking into the gym and starting a workout without any thought of what you’re trying to achieve. Try to always have a clear plan of what your workout will consist of and take the time to psych yourself up prior to a workout and focus your mind on performing a high intensity training session that will spark your body into growth!

Also, try to focus your mind on the goals for that particular workout and remind yourself how hard you have prepared to work in order to attain them. You may have the ideal training program, state-of-the-art supplementation and a well-planned diet, but without willpower and a positive attitude, your progress will be inhibited. Strict discipline and a positive attitude go a long way in reaching your ultimate physique goals.

Half & Half
An example of a split routine is a system where the body is divided into two halves, with each half being trained during alternate workouts. This means you can devote more time to each body part while also allowing more time for recuperation.

Initially, the split routine I developed had me training four times a week: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. After a week and a half of adhering to this schedule, I felt tired and stressed out, as if my nervous system was out of whack. I was obviously doing too much and my body was sending me a distress signal.

My schedule was revised so that I trained every other day, but even that proved too ambitious for my body’s reserves. Eventually I settled on training three days a week, which meant that over a 14-day period I worked each half of my body three times, as follows.

Week #1

  • Monday: Workout #1
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: Workout #2
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: Workout #1
  • Sunday: Rest

Week #2

  • Monday: Workout #2
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Workout #I
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: Workout #2
  • Sunday: Rest

The premise that a training program should be in sync with a seven-day cycle was almost sacred many years ago, but I had no qualms about breaking that tradition. Human physiology ticks to a 24-hour clock, not a seven-day calendar.

Within this split routine, I did three exercises for larger body parts and two exercises for the smaller ones. The exception was quadriceps (a large body part), which I limited to two exercises: barbell squats and hack squats. At that stage of my development, I felt those were the only two exercises I needed for my legs and I did an extra set of barbell squats by way of compensation. Like my induction course, my split routine relied mainly on basic movements as they generate the most overall muscle growth.

I rested between sets only as much as I needed, and I didn’t socialize during rest periods. I took my training very seriously. My job was to get in and out of the gym as quickly as possible and then get home so I could eat, rest and grow! Another factor that illustrated I had stepped up a gear from my “breaking-in” schedule was that I started to compile a training log. This was an invaluable resource in determining what worked for me and what didn’t. A great program to track your workouts is right here on ShapeFit and its called FitTracker which is extremely helpful for monitoring your overall diet and fitness program.

After a year on this schedule, I started to include forced reps. I would choose one basic exercise for each body part and on the last set of that exercise, I would do one or two forced reps (past failure) to spur on even more growth.

How Much Muscle Will I Gain?
It really depends on your age and genetics. Assuming you’re a normal 18-year-old guy, congratulations! You’ll be growing like a weed! Right now you have a tremendous flow of anabolic hormones in your body, so all you need to do is eat and train hard, and you will grow! However, it’s hard to predict just how much you will grow, as it also depends on your genes.

With all this in mind and given that you train and eat right, is possible to pack on up to 25-30 pounds in your first year. But, it could also be as little as 5 pounds. It depends on if you get a “free-ride” on a hormone-spurt or not, your overall potential for muscle growth and other factors.

Why Am I Not Getting Bigger and Stronger?

  1. Not Lifting Heavy Enough Weight
    One of the biggest strength training mistakes that people make is not lifting heavy enough weights to challenge themselves. If you can comfortably perform 12 or more repetitions of any given exercise than this is a sure sign it is time to bump the weight up. In order to progress you are going to have to apply an overloading stimulus and lifting more weight is the easiest way to accomplish this.
  2. Doing Too Much Weight Training
    Another severe strength training mistake that so many people make is either going to the gym too frequently or staying there for too long per session. Ideally, you only want to be in the gym performing strength training exercises 3-4 times a week for a period of about 45-60 minutes total. If you are there for 90-120 minutes 6 times a week you are either spending too much time talking to your friends or you are not following an effective program. Hit the weights hard for an hour and then get out of the gym and rest up so you can start growing!
  3. Not Eating Immediately After Your Weight Training Session
    If you think that waiting a while after you have finished your weight training session is the best way to ensure muscle gains, you are sorely mistaken. This is a very big strength training mistake because right after a session is over, your body is crying for nutrients to repair muscle tissue and restore muscle glycogen levels. This 20-30 minute time period after your workout is considered a window of opportunity for muscle growth and you need to take advantage of it. If you give the right nutrients to your body as soon as possible you will enhance the recovery process and allow yourself to recovery optimally and train again sooner.

So have a good look at your workouts and make sure you are not making any of these top three strength training mistakes we have just covered. If you are doing some of them it will be well worth your time and effort to make changes to your program. Not only will you perform better but you will likely feel and look better as well.

Conclusion
I’m a firm believer in the KISS method which stands for Keep It Simple Stupid. If you’re making progress, stick to your program and don’t change things. However, if you’re not progressing then make sure to monitor and track your workouts and diet so you’ll be able to isolate the problem and solve it. Switch things up often and see what works the best for you.

The main thing is that you must have confidence in your own ability to judge what is happening to your own body and then make sensible decisions based on the feedback. Bodybuilding is an ongoing process, wherein you’re constantly selecting, rejecting, modifying and learning as you search for the pieces that fit the unique jigsaw puzzle of your body. You may need to adjust some of the things I suggest within this article because they may not work for you. Find your own path and follow it in order to achieve amazing results!

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