When to Lift More Weight: Smash Your Plateaus!

You’ve been lifting weights for a while and you’re not seeing any changes to your body. Your muscles aren’t growing and the movements you do every day are becoming easy.

The answer is one of two things: You’ve hit a plateau or you’re not lifting enough weight.

Your body works to adapt to stress and when the same stress is continually applied it needs to be challenged. This is usually solved by lifting heavier weight.

Things to Know When Lifting Heavier Weight

Let’s clear the air: You’re not going to reach your goals overnight.

While some folks love to hear that increasing your work capacity will get you stronger and more muscular, not everyone wants this outcome, especially women. Truth be told, this won’t happen.

Think of a Bodybuilder who spend lots, and I mean LOTS of time, money, and effort to create their physique. Women don’t have the hormones that allow them to pack on this type of muscle. However increasing weight will allow them to increase their lean body mass and trim fat.

Most men are also limited by their genetics. Have you ever wondered why only a small portion of the population are bodybuilders? Do the math.

Lifting heavier weights is a great way to challenge the body by adding a new stressor to adapt to. You can do this by either increasing weight, adjusting your repetition format, or changing your exercises. 

The Game Plan for Increasing Weight

gym weights

1. Start Slow

The first thing to do is determine a basis. If you’ve done an exercise for a while, you’ll have a good baseline for what you can lift. Adding 10-20 lbs to the lift will make it tougher. 

However if you plan to adjust your routine and do an exercise you’ve never done before then start slow. For instance if you think you can row a 50 lb dumbbell, start by first rowing half the weight for a few reps and determine how you felt. If you felt fine, increase the weight gradually to a 35. 

As long as you’re able to perform the exercise with proper form, keep increasing weight. Once you find a weight that feels challenging but you’re still able to practice good form, use that weight for your first set. 

Note: This gradual work-up is great way to warm-up. If you don’t already do this, add it to your arsenal as a way to prevent injuries. 

2. Determining When to Add More Weight

If you regularly use barbells and dumbbells, the question will soon become when to add more weight. 

Start by looking at the speed of the lift and how tired you feel after you complete your sets. If your last set and reps are slow and exhaustive then it’s a good indicator that you’re using the correct weight.

If you complete your last reps at the same speed as your first then you can likely go heavier. 

3. Determining How Much Weight to Add

When it comes time to add weight, it doesn’t mean you have to make huge jumps. However if you want to become stronger you can’t expect to use the same weight week after week.

Usually increases of even 2-3% or 5 lbs of the previous routines routine is more than enough to cause stress on the body. The goal is to find a healthy balance between challenging yourself and listening to your body’s limit.


There comes a point where performing higher rep ranges at a lighter weight becomes more of a cardiovascular workout than strength training. For example: the only thing you become good at when lifting 135 lbs 100 times is lifting 135 lbs 100 times. 

If you’re looking to become stronger, following the advice above is a great way to start. Remember, increase weight gradually and listen to your body.

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