Lifting weights, getting stronger and how [not] to turn into the incredible hulk - Diligent Fitness

Lifting weights, getting stronger and how [not] to turn into the incredible hulk

22nd October 2014 by Kieran Igwe Exercise, Motivation 0 comments

Found some classic footage of Lyz lifting weights that made us both laugh. Well, I obviously showed Lyz, waited till she laughed then tentatively joined in.

I remember at the time these weights were suitably challenging. Here’s the clip.:

Fast forward to 2014, and for a similar exercise to challenge her in the same way she had to more than double the weight:

How things have changed! It’s amazing to see the progress overtime.

If you find you’re stuck lifting the same weights in the gym time after time – but like the idea of getting stronger – then I’d like to share a few thoughts on how to progress.

How you can get stronger too

Your body is amazing. If we gradually increase the weights you lift, over time, your body will adapt, get stronger and more toned as a by-product.

That part of the equation is simple. Lift more and you’ll progress. But there’s something other than your body that’s holding you back.

It’s all in your head

Left to its own devices, your brain keeps you running in place. Without an outside influence it’s more than happy keeping you doing the same weights week in week out. It’s what’s easy. It’s comfortable. And it’s killing your gym progress.

Your brain rarely says; “ oh this is getting easy… I think we should make it harder”. No way. It probably learned long ago to never suggest making things harder by choice.

So progressing weights is something we have to do systematically. Rather than thinking should I try the next weight up, just pick it up and give it a go.

Progress systematically, rather than when you feel like it

Here’s a continuum of worst to best-case scenario for seeing results from lifting weights:

Worst: you’re not lifting weights at all. You’re far to busy… checking facebook, neatening stuff up on your desk and staring blankly into the same fridge you just looked in 5 minutes ago hoping something new has appeared (welcome to my world).

Better: you lift weights regularly, but stick to the safety of the same weights week after week

Best: You lift weights, record what you do and each workout try to improve a little on at least one exercise

To do ‘best’ you have to somehow track what weights you use. Over the years there’ve been times where I’ve recorded every detail of my workout and times where I just freestyled, doing as I please.

If I want to see progress I know recording my weights is the way to go. Yep it’s anal. And yep, it works.

'creative' workout log... hey stop judging

‘creative’ workout log… hey, stop judging

Won’t I get massive lifting heavy weights?

Believe me, I’ve been trying for years to create a female bodybuilding monster. You know, the type that just ‘hulks’ and flexes at people instead of talking.

But all I keep doing is leaving a trail of fit, strong, empowered women in my wake. Dammit!

What I’d suggest is give lifting heavier weights a shot. If you notice you’re getting random urges to hulk at passers by (and you’re not OK with that) then there’ll be plenty of time to go back to lighter weights before it gets to full-on scary hulk stage.

What I suspect is you’ll just end up a little leaner and a little more toned.

What if I can’t finish the set with a heavier weight?

Now, you’re perhaps concerned that you might not be able to complete a full set with the next weight up. And that’s cool.

Unless you have an existing injury that you need to be wary of don’t let this stop you trying. You’ll be surprised what you’re capable of.

Even if you try a few reps with the next weight up and drop back down to finish the set. Just gradually over time complete more of the set with the heavier weight and less with the lighter weight.

For example, if you’ve been lifting the 10kg dumbbells on the bench press for a few workouts then here’s one way to progress:

  1. Workout 1: 2 reps with 12kg / 8 reps 10kg
  2. Workout 2: 3 reps 12kg / 7 reps 10kg
  3. Workout 3: 4 reps 12kg / 6 reps 10kg
  4. Workout 4: 5 reps 12kg / 5 reps 10kg

The end goal over the weeks is to do a full set of 10 repetitions with the 12kg dumbbells. This takes time, but if you nudge it up little by little, adding a rep here and there over time your body will get stronger and eventually you’ll nail the set with the heavier weight.

It’s not just your body that benefits

What’s interesting is the sense of achievement you get from finally doing something that you couldn’t do initially.

Failing and then succeeding is something that happens a lot as a child. But as an adult we kinda’ wall ourselves off from any possibility of failing.

In doing so we deprive ourselves of the sense of achievement that only comes succeeding at something we couldn’t originally do. Wow. Pretty profound 🙂

Ok, life coaching over. Let’s summarise

  1. To get stronger gradually edge up the weights you lift over time
  2. Progression has to be an ongoing process. A mindset you adopt. Where each time you workout you aim to progress a little.
  3. It’ll never feel like you’re ready to progress. You have to just do it.
  4. When you use the next weight up you might not make the same number of reps. That’s fine.
  5. Complete a few reps with a heavier weight then drop to the previous weight to finish up.

Next time you’re in the gym I want to challenge you to pick one exercise to push yourself just that little bit more than you did last time. Be ready to not be able to complete the full set. Know that failure’s a possibility. Get comfortable with that, then watch what happens.

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