How to Lift Heavier Weights
Everyone wants to lift heavier and look better when they go to the gym, but are you using the right workouts to make that happen? If your key focus is to get stronger in the gym and lift heavier weights, you need to focus on a long term plan with careful programming. There are two main components of a program that will determine how you can get stronger: what exercises you do and the rep schemes you use.
Ultimately it will come down to how you train and the effort you put into each training session, but your programming will be the path that you need to follow. With proper programming and help from a coach, you will be able to progressively lift heavier weights. Lifting heavier will transition to other parts of your life like functional strength and athletic applications.
Throughout this article we will take a look at why you should lift heavy weights, how you can lift heavier, and also how it will translate into improving your athletic performance.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Why You Should Lift Heavier Weights
Lifting heavier weights is obviously going to make you stronger! But Why would you want to get stronger? Maybe you want to increase your functional strength for your day to day life, maybe you want to improve the performance in a specific sport, maybe you just want to lift heavier to compete in a strength sport. Whatever the reason is, lifting heavier weights is going to heighten your nervous system to handle more load over time.
When you lift heavy weight, it is going to signal the body to react with higher threshold motor unit recruitment. This is how your muscles and the rest of your body responds to load and resistance based stimulus. What this is going to do is lead to greater intramuscular and intermuscular coordination, reinforcing how your body reacts to a certain stimulus. Neurologically, when our body senses a load, it will heighten our nervous system to a heightened level of strength. To put into basic terms; when you lift heavier weights your body will get stronger by adapting to the load over time.
Hypertrophy and the building of muscle is going to be the primary driver of strength gains. Lifting heavier weights in different rep schemes is going to hone in on where you want to get stronger. You can do plenty of volume with light weight and develop muscle size, but loading more and more weight over time is going to be what increases your strength. Especially when you are using compound movements like squat, bench press, or deadlift, the whole body will be encouraged to grow stronger from the load.
Priming the Body with More Weight
Getting your body to be stronger and lift more weight is going to come down to a specific rep scheme that we like to use at Garage Strength. The first step of lifting more weight is going to be by choosing a compound movement that you want to lift more with. This could be anything like squat, bench press, deadlift, snatch, clean, jerk, overhead press, or anything that uses multiple muscle systems in the body. Pick a movement that you can load very heavy.
Once you have the exercise you will be focusing on, you will want to work up to a very heavy single or double. This is going to potentiate and prime our body to lift more weight. Potentiation is a neurological term that means that there is an increase of strength in the body because the nervous system is acclimated or responding to a previous load. Working up to a very heavy single or double is going to heighten the nervous system to respond more effectively to other loads.
That next load is going to be what we call the intensity intra drop set. This is a drop set that will be done 20-30 seconds after each heavy single or double. The goal of this rep scheme is to continue to ramp that heavy set as much as you can over the course of all the sets.
The basic layout of this rep scheme is to work up to a heavy single, drop down and do a set at 70-75% for 3-4 reps. Then do another heavy single but at about 5% heavier than the first single, but keep that intensity intra drop set the same as that first drop set.
Drop Sets for Hypertrophy
So why do we use this intensity intra drop set? The drop set is a big part of this rep scheme to help you lift heavier weights. Using drop sets in combination with high intensity singles is a way to incorporate a high amount of volume into a block where we want to include intensity.
For more static movements like squat, bench press, and deadlift, this will help improve the myofibrillar hypertrophy through the movement. It’s a great way to build the size of the muscle as it recovers over the coming days while still improving that high level of strength needed for athletic performance.
When we are doing this set structure with more coordinated movements like snatches or cleans, this also helps reinforce the technique between heavy attempts. When we look at an example like Hayley Reichardt, we know that her drop set weight is going to be 80kg for 3 cleans and 1 jerk. Then for her heavy singles, we will have her take attempts starting at 100kg, then increase the singles over time to 104kg, 108kg, 110kg, and 112kg.
When we look at Hayley’s example, we can see that there are 5 sets of singles. After each single there are 3 reps which will amount to a total of 20 reps after the sets are said and done. With a quarter of the reps being at over 90% of her 1 rep max, we have that high intensity that will heighten the nervous system. Although we still have 15 additional reps at 70-75% of her max, we are able to work in volume that is not too hard or too easy.
Incorporating this set structure into your programming is not difficult. This rep scheme should be used with the main compound movement that is focused for the day. This should also be used with the first exercise on a day you decide to use it. The reason you want to do this first is for a couple reasons.
The first reason being that you want to be able to put maximum effort into your heavy singles or doubles. You want to be fresh and not fatigued from doing an exercise before it. If you are fatigued and use this set structure for your second or third workout, your body may not be able to ramp as high.
The second reason being that it will prepare your body for additional volume for the exercises that follow. Coming back to the topic of potentiation; even though you may be doing high intensity lifts, the body will be ready for the latter portion of your training session.
To make sure you can lift heavier and perform the best you can do 4-6 sets of this rep scheme. Plan for 4-6 heavy singles with a drop set of 3-4 reps after each heavy single. Each single should get progressively heavier by around 4-5%. This rep scheme is something that we use with our high level athletes at Garage Strength. If you want to get similar programming and use rep schemes that will get you lifting heavier weights, sign up for the Peak Strength app to get programs customized for your specific goals.
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Welcome to the Garage Strength Blog, where it is my goal to provide you with the experience and knowledge I've gained in the strength and conditioning world over many years of learning from both successes and failures. I train elite-level athletes in a multitude of sports from the high school to professional levels, already producing 5 Olympics and 30+ National Champions. If you want to be the next champion I train, check out my strength programs below!
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