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How to Bust Through a Strength Plateau

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People fail to increase their strength or muscle mass for a variety of reasons, but one of the most common is not lifting heavy enough weights to trigger growth and adaptation. If your always reaching for the same plates to throw on the bar, your missing the boat!

A few research studies have tested whether the average person chooses weights that meet these guidelines for resistance training. What they found is that the average participant in each of these studies chose resistance that was too light to make significant, ongoing improvements in strength or hypertrophy. To give these participants a break, its only fair to tell you that most of them have never had any formal type of strength training. So it seems fair that these participants would have no clue how to select the proper weight to make any sort of strength gains.

On the other end of the spectrum it would be fair to think that those who have had some training and guidance would fair better and be able to choose a proper weights to challenge themselves…not so.

In fact when you put the two groups together and ask them to set their 1RM in a strength movement, most are surprised at how much they can actually lift.

If your goal is to increase strength or build muscle, it’s important to find a coach who is  not only educated  in the science of strength training but who will encourage you to progress to heavy lifting.  You have to lift heavy weights to build or increase muscle strength.

Remember, it’s not about the weight; it’s about the effort. Heavy means a resistance that is challenging for the individual on that particular exercise and in their chosen repetition range. Heavy for a competitive power-lifter and heavy for a 40-year-old woman who has been lifting for two months are two completely different things. For that woman, squatting with an empty bar for eight reps may be heavy for her, where she is at in her strength journey. As long as she’s consistently challenging her muscles and increasing the resistance over time, she will get stronger.

Using a gradual approach in heavy resistance training builds confidence. Developing a sense of competency by beginning with lighter weights and progressing resistance is a good way to alleviate new lifters’ concerns about heavy weights. Coaching  and spotting during training is also important in helping to build an athletes confidence to start lifting heavier.

Be aware of the common barriers to achieving results. If you are working to improve your fitness and reach aesthetic or performance goals, you aren’t going to get very far without lifting heavy.