Going to the gym can sometimes seem as mystical as teleporting to Asgard (if you're a fan of the Marvel Universe, you'll know what we're talking about). We get that. There are just so many unanswered questions: When do I work out? What exercises? How many sets and reps? Cardio first or last? Why is that guy wearing jeans in the gym? Is she wearing Lululemons or that new Kate Hudson brand? Chances are high that there is one important question you've probably never asked and likely don't know how to answer. That question? When should you increase the weight that you lift? This isn't about getting bulky and building big muscles. Lifting weights helps you burn fat and tones your body while helping you get lean and healthy! Here are three ways to tell when you should up the ante with your fitness by lifting heavier weights.
You're swinging the weight around
If the weight you're lifting seems more like a child's toy than something that belongs in the gym, you need to up the weight! According to certified personal trainer Terry Asher, owner of GymJunkies.com, "Lifting a weight that is too light for you is counterproductive to your strength gains, fat loss, and overall health." In fact, Asher believes "you should not train with a weight that doesn't require your full concentration and strength to move safely before you even start your sets." If it's so light that you don't need to focus, chances are you'll miss out on the benefits in the big picture of your overall health and fitness. The moral of the story here? Lifting a weight that's light enough to play with is just that, play — not working out.
You aren't feeling it
Do you work out and not feel your muscles contracting through each rep? Well, if that burn is missing, it's time for you to up the weight you're lifting! According to certified trainer Kendall Wood, NASM and coauthor of Core Fitness Solution, "If you're not feeling each contraction on every rep of your workout, you're not doing everything you can to spark positive changes in your body shape, fat loss, or strength gains." The old adage "No pain, no gain" is more than just a catchphrase. "A real workout means putting in effort in the gym, and that means feeling the burn while you're training and subsequent soreness the next day," Wood said. "If you're not feeling it, that's why it isn't working."
You're not seeing results
Results in the gym come in many different forms. You could lose weight, shrink in dress sizes, gain muscle, or get stronger and healthier. The fact remains, however, that results don't happen overnight. But if you're not seeing results after a strong commitment of diligent training over the course of six weeks, it's very likely that you need to raise the weight you're lifting. According to Lauryn Evarts, owner of The Skinny Confidential, "A well-planned training regime that is followed without fail and accompanied by an equally on-point nutrition plan will always prevail. But if those results don't come after a six-week period, you've probably not been putting in the effort by progressively lifting more and more as your body gets stronger."
The bottom line is obvious: Lifting more weight is essential to progression in the gym. All the experts agree that if you're lifting the same weight for too long (more than six weeks) or you can get through three to four sets without even feeling a burn or actual muscular fatigue, you're not lifting enough weight. If you want to get leaner, be stronger, fit into that new pair of jeans, or just feel better about your health, you just can't coast through your workouts. You'll only see the results you want if you're always pushing yourself by gradually increasing the weight to reflect the improvements in your body that come from training hard. Don't just go to the gym and go through the motions. Push yourself, and you'll be thrilled with the results!