If you want to gain strength and build muscle, fitness experts advise a protein-rich diet and a training programme that includes lifting heavy weights. When doing so, it’s important to track your progress so you have an idea or reference point to look back on to see if you’re getting better or achieving the results you want.
Make sure you talk to a trainer about doing exercises in the proper form and in the appropriate order so you can maximise your potential and follow these five tips when doing heavy lifting at the gym to optimise your workout.
Make big movements.
Trainers usually urge those looking to build muscle to do multi-joint exercises as these are more productive at stimulating muscle groups. Concentrate on big movements such as deadlifts, chin-ups, sit-ups, calf raises, bench press, squats, curls, rows and shoulder presses. When doing multi-joint exercises, rest at least one and a half to two minutes between sets. Follow multi-joint movements with single-joint movements, or exercises usually done on machines or with cables.
Avoid exhausting muscles.
Exercise physiologists caution against pre-exhausting assisting muscle groups and target muscles before working a major muscle. For instance, avoid working the biceps directly before or after working the back, because you won’t be able to maximise your back workout when the muscle group responsible for pulling weight will be too exhausted to help you.
Mind your tempo.
In gym training, tempo is defined as the speed at which the weight is lifted. While many people would have a quick tempo—1 second raising and 1 second lowering—experts say you should vary the tempo and slow down when raising and lowering weights. Try a 5-second lowering, then a 2-second pause and then a quick raising for a 7-second repetition. By changing the speed at which you lift the weight, you will increase the muscle tension time, forcing muscles to adapt to different stress levels.
Don’t forget to rest.
Resting between sets is as important as doing sets. How long your rest period should be depends on the intensity at which you lift. Generally, the higher your reps are, the shorter your rest period should be, and the fewer your reps, the longer you should rest. This means that if you are doing 12-15 reps, you should rest for 45-75 seconds. For 1-5 reps, 2-5 minutes of rest between sets is ideal.
It may seem odd—shouldn’t you rest longer when you’re doing more reps? Well, trainers explain that it has to do with the energy you expend. The more reps, the lighter the weight, so your body is able to recover faster for the next set. With fewer reps and heavier weights, the body needs more time to recover for the next set.
Use proper form.
It cannot be stressed enough that proper form is crucial when doing heavy gym lifting. You may be tempted to cheat on form just so you can add weights, but you’ll only be cheating yourself out of any gains in strength and muscle. If you’re not certain what the proper form is for free weights, ask a trainer!