If you've been hitting the weight room but aren't seeing a difference in results or don't feel challenged enough, it could mean you're not lifting as heavy as you should be. To really test your strength and limits, it's best to go up in weights on a regular basis so you can better track results and see steady and consistent progress over time.
When deciding how to proceed, you'll want to be careful so you don't overwhelm yourself or put too much pressure on the body, as this can lead to injury or overuse. However, as long as you transition with care and patience, you'll be able to avoid getting hurt and work toward seeing some excellent fitness benefits. Here are four signs you're not using the right weights and should go up in size.
You Breeze Through Reps
If you're lifting and squatting with ease, it means you're not challenging yourself as you should. "If you're able to do about 15 to 20 reps without feeling tired or in need of a short break after, you're probably not lifting as heavy as you're capable of," Rebecca Gahan, CPT, owner and founder of Kick@55 Fitness in Chicago, told POPSUGAR. "You should really feel those last two or so reps, where you're pushing yourself," says Gahan. However, be mindful: you'll need to still maintain good form in order to avoid injury or overuse. "Don't go too heavy to where you're compromising form," said Gahan.
You Don't See Progress in Muscle Tone
You should be able to see your muscles getting leaner and stronger over time with each increase in weight, says Gahan. "As you're shocking and surprising your muscles with new weights and challenges, muscle tone should improve," said Gahan. "When you stay at the same weight for too long, you're no longer breaking through that plateau to trigger progress and build more muscle."
Your best bet is to increase each body part at a steady rate. "If you are being consistent with your training, it could take two to four weeks to make small increases in weight. The upper body may result in a five to 10 percent weight increase, and lower body compound movements, like squats and deadlift variations, can result in a 15 to 20 percent increase," Ronnie Lane, a personal trainer in Florida, told POPSUGAR.
You've Mastered the Form Perfectly
If you've become an expert with a specific exercise, it's time to increase those weights safely. "Once you've mastered any movement pattern under control and are activating the proper muscles utilized for that exercise, then you will increase the load of the weight," said Lane. However, be sure you don't do it before perfecting that form. "The effects of lifting heavy without proper form could lead to serious injury, especially for anything that loads your spine, like back barbell squats, barbell deadlifts, etc. These exercises require that you to brace your core and keep a neutral spine alignment."
You Can Do an Extra 2 Reps With Heavier Weights
If you are easily able to do an extra two reps with the heavier weights, it means you're ready to start working out with the heavier equipment, said Sarah Walls, personal trainer and owner of SAPT Strength & Performance Training, Inc. Make sure to go gradually and pick the right weights. Walls recommends increasing your weight by "five pounds for upper body and 10 pounds for lower body."