Updated: 5 days ago
A common problem people seem to run into in the gym is weight calculation.
How can you know which workload is both safe to work with and enough to make awesome gainz?
Bad weight handling can go in both ends of the spectrum: - Stacking on too much weight to a point of risking serious injury (mostly common among men). - Stacking too little weight to the point of turning the workout relatively useless (mostly common among women).
Al ya'll Gender phobics - don't get angry (yet). Let's dive into the article to clarify.
In this article, I will first try to get into your head and see if I can lay out the more common pitfalls of improper weight handling.
Once you say "Oh! I do that! How do I fix it?", I will offer you an easy formula you can use to determine what is your optimal workload that will both get you the result you want, and have minimum risk!
First, a general rule:
If you finish a set with something other than your muscles that is in pain – something is off.
Now that we got this put of the way.. Here are possible reasons you might over-lift to a point your eyes might pop out of your skull, or a disk might pop out of your spine:
1. Wanting To Get Results Faster:
A common error among lifters, veterans and newbies alike, is to think that some things can “Speed up” their result gaining in the gym.
Well, actually, this is not an error, as some things do in fact get you faster results.
The error doesn't lie in thinking there is a way to speed things us, but in the perception of what that way actually is. Here's a hint: it is often not what you think.
These are some examples of things that will get you faster results: Having a balanced, whole-food-based diet, Sleeping 8 hours a night, drinking a lot of water, meditating, smiling, resting sufficiently between workouts, loving yourself, being consistent.
But for some reason, people still think "If I lift heavier I'll see faster results".
Please, stop this dichotomous state of mind now. It's just is not that simple.
Lifting heavier weights will not necessarily give you better or faster results.
As a matter of fact, if you lift heavy on the expense of proper form, results might come slower!
Seeing results in training, is a matter of repetition and time. That means that in order to succeed, you need to play the long game.
Lifting to a point that endangers your health and might cause injury. An injury might partially or completely halt of your training, and is pretty counterproductive to getting the results you want. I wouldn't exactly call getting injured over bad form "playing the long game".
So remember – faster results can be achieved, but they are dependent much more on your daily habits, consistency in training and lifestyle. Not so much on the weight you move.
2. Not understanding what “success” of an exercise is:
For some people, getting the bar from point A to point B means they have performed an exercise well.
For some people, if you managed to lift the bar from the floor and stand up with it, you successfully completed a deadlift. (See: Crossfit games. Uhhh. Facepalm)
Unfortunately, that is not the only criterion to the success of an exercise.
Even in a powerlifting competition, where the main idea is to get the bar from point A to point B, there are rules. For example, if a competitor detaches their butt or head or from the bench while bench pressing – they are disqualified.
There is a reason for these rules. Most of the time, rules are there to keep you safe.
There is a reason why I spend at least a month with clients going over basic movement patterns before starting any kind of loading.
The take-home point here: don’t think of successfully completing a single workout session, or successfully completing a year of training - think of how you can successfully train for the rest of your life.
If you break your back with poor technique, or destroy your knees - you probably won't see the results you want.
Look at this dude. Lifts super heavy in an amazing form.
Here is our general rule: If your last rep was as easy as your first – something is off.
As we keep this in mind, here are a few reasons to why you might lift so little, that you might die of old age before you a single pound lost:
1. Thinking you will get “Bulky”:
Many people tend to think that if they lift "too heavy weights" they will end up looking like bodybuilders, looking too bulky for their taste.
In another article I wrote entitled “Afraid of Starting to Lift Weights? 3 Weightlifting Myths You Must Debunk!” I explain in depth why this absolutely cannot happen.
A workout must have a challenge withing it. It doesn’t have to be an overwhelming, ass kicking challenge, but it must challenge your body to some extent.
In reality, if the load is too easy for you, there will be little to no return from the workout. Literally zero results will happen and it will just frustrate you further, and cause you to waste your already valuable time.
You're already doing 90% of the work by showing up.
Make sure that the hour you spend training will be a beneficial one, and not a waste of your precious time.
2. Afraid of Post-Workout Muscle Pain:
We’ve all been there.
It’s a day or two after leg day, and it’s time to sit on the toilet. Holly Molly.
For many people, the fear of post workout muscle pain is real, and is completely justified.
It’s not pleasant to walk around feeling like you really need to roll around in a wheelchair. It might hinder performance at work, or spending time with our kids or friends, and to be honest, yeah, it sucks.
Well, I have good news and bad news: Bad news is, that muscle pain is a part of the life of and that no amounts of post workout stretching can help to make it better.
The Good news is, that the longer and more consecutive your training is, the less likely your will get any muscle pain! If you do, it wont be such a big deal.
Over time, it will subside.
So don’t fear it, embrace it – make it your little internal indicator to know which muscles worked hard, and are now thanking you. With... pain. Yeah, muscles have communication issues.
So How the hell can you tell which weight is good, bad, enough, too little, whatever?!
Luckily for you, I have a solution!
It is this exact mathematical formula that will get you the results you want with minimum risk and pain.
Here is the mathematical formula to make your weightlifting sessions both successful, and safe:
You ready for it?
Proper Technique – (Workload + Sufficient Fatigue) = A Good Set.
Explanation in detail:
What Workload + Fatigue means, is that a set should have a workload that is hard enough to cause muscle or Central Nervous System Fatigue. In other, more simple words: IT CANNOT BE SUPER EASY.
That doesn't mean you have to destroy yourself with every set. Whether you want to train hard, or if you want to have a breezy light training session –
at least some fatigue has to occur in order for the workout to be somewhat effective.
An easy guideline to follow is to make the last rep at least somewhat difficult. Feel like you put in some work.
Workload + Fatigue is subtracted from Proper Technique, because no matter how hard your set is, IT SHOULD NEVER TAKE AWAY FROM YOUR POSTURE, OR TECHNIQUE.
This is so important, it’s worth rephrasing: No matter how hard the set is, if it takes away from your technique – it’s no good.
So even if you want to work on those strength gains, and you are about to perform a heavy, 3 repetition set – those 3 repetitions must be executed in proper technique.
A good way to remember it is following this guideline - not matter how hard the set is, your posture in the last rep should look somewhat similar your posture in the first rep.
If you can’t perform a certain weight in proper technique, it’s time to set your ego aside, take off 10 or 15 kg off of the bar, and work on your technique.
Training is both a gift you give to your body as well as a celebration of your skill and ability. If you want to see lasting results and not get injured doing so, you must play the long game, and be consistent with your training. Getting injured will hinder consistency, so a good technique of exercises is in order. Consistency is not enough though.
In order to see results, workouts need to be somewhat difficult and challenging.
The perfect balance lies on working in the maximum load where your technique doesn't falter. Your joints shouldn't explode, but you don't want to feel like you just hit a bicep curl with a pencil either.
Be challenged by your exercises, and at the same time read the signs the body is giving you.
One final tip when it comes to playing the long game - know your aim. Envision what is it you want to achieve by training, what is your goal - and act according to that paradigm. Being successful in anything has normally 3 stages: 1. Knowing where you want to go.
2.Knowing where you are now.
3. Knowing what you need to do to bridge the gap between the two.
Remember: You are in this for the long term. Be sustainable.