A common question I get from beginners is “ How hard should I go? ” This is difficult to answer when you aren’t seeing someone exercise right in front of you.
People with little to no prior experience lifting weights also have the advantage of very little ego in the weight room. This is very good when starting out as those people tend not to sacrifice technique just to get more weight. However, the disadvantage is not knowing when to push forward and not knowing what challenging weight should feel like. Squatting 110lbs (50 kg) for 10 reps might be challenging for someone even if they have the ability to squat 150lbs for 10 reps. They have just never experienced the feelings of burn and fatigue that are associated with a tough set even if their form is remaining constant.
I find it is important after a few weeks of initial training for beginners to understand what heavyweight or difficult sets feel like when lifting. If your trainer you can incorporate something like a drop set or a rest/pause set in order to simulate this without loading your client with too much weight too soon. However, for a true beginner, you don’t want to do this until they are over the initial soreness of training in familiar with the exercises. Depending on their abilities and their starting point this could be accomplished in about three or four weeks. If the technique is okay, then there is nothing wrong with attempting some heavy lifts as long as you’re observing them.
How hard should I go!
If you are training on your own I would highly recommend getting some outside eyes to check your form. If you are confident with form and technique, then you can begin pushing yourself. Remember that training with weights is simply a way to invoke a stress response. The body’s adaptation to this is to get stronger. It’s that simple. However, the stress must be enough to invoke a train response. So if you’re lifting 110 pounds for 10 reps every week the body will eventually have no reason to improve because the stress isn’t enough to cause an adaptation. Just like walking barefoot on a carpet won’t cause the skin on your feet to get thicker but walking outside barefoot will.
Eventually, you will need to increase weight and lower the reps at least temporarily. This stresses the body differently and the response is to increase its fitness level and in this case that means gaining muscle and/or strength. As a beginner, you don’t have to change this very often. For the first few months, you will make extremely rapid progress no matter what you do if your consistent with your training. You will continue to improve although less rapidly for about 6 to 8 months. Then you will find your muscle gains and strength gains slow down which is completely normal. High-level athletes must change their training more often as their body is more resilient to training stresses.
Most people I find can maintain good technique if they perform sets and stop when they have two or three reps left in the tank. This is difficult for beginners to even know. So at some point, you will have to test yourself. That 110 pounds that you’ve been lifting you will need to squat it is many times as you can to see what you’re capable of. Trainers can assign specific weights or percentages of a max to more established athletes to keep their technique in line without letting them go to heavy. This is one of the primary reasons I came up with Mogy.
A trainer or coach’s job is to think for the athlete or client. The athletes job is to perform the workout. If you don’t have the luxury of a coach you will, of course, have to do thinking for yourself. If you are doing the same thing you did a month ago it is time to make a change. Always strive to get better. Spend the next month going a little heavier every week and then back off. That simple change will most likely help you see what you’re capable of and keep your body guessing. The amount of variety you can add to your workout is huge and beyond this article but remember small changes can make a big difference. Finally, remember that it’s a workout. It is supposed to be difficult and challenging. Don’t get caught in the routine of just moving around.