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How to Lift Heavier Weights in the Gym

I often come across queries relating to building or retaining lean muscle mass and losing fat. Here’s a typical example and my response to it:


Since the start of the year I have been on a specific bodybuilding programme. So far I’m enjoying it and finding my progression through squats and deadlifts going well. Bench press and overhead presses seem to get up to 37.5kg amp; 17.5kg respectively – and then falter, because I start losing technique and everything falls apart.

Is there any logical reason why this is happening?

Also i’m after some advice on my diet. Currently I weigh 68.7 kgs with 10.5% fat – which has remained pretty much the same since the last quarter of last year. I’m about 5’9″

My goals are simple – stay at pretty much the same weight but get the body fat down a couple of percentage points to reduce the midsection and get lean as a result. I’d like my lean weight to stay the same, though.

I’ve had conflicting information from two different sources. One says to eat 5000 calories a day to gain weight, the other says lean body weight in pounds multiplied by 16 will gain you weight – which for me only takes me to 2080 calories.

I need to know where can I tweak my diet, what can I add in – and where – what am I desperately missing from my diet etc, etc.

I would really appreciate any advice…

Lift Heavier Weight

My response is as follows:

Without getting into all the detail around the program you are following I’d say that regardless of what program you follow there is a need for clear goals and a clear route from where you are to the goal you are seeking.

If you want to stay at the same lean mass and reduce bodyfat your training priorities should reflect this. The end result of this would be that you would lose some weight overall.

If your goal is to stay with the same muscle mass and to lose fat then you really need to be focusing on reducing calories slightly from what they are now. Forget absolute numbers, like 5000 calories or 2000 calories. Reduce what you are eating now slightly, keep workout intensity the same, and you will lose fat and save muscle.

It’s actually as easy as that, theoretically. Implementation may not be as easy – but the theory holds true.

Your muscles are shaped and sized by the training you are doing. If you can improve the training intensity the muscles will improve in size.

The probable reason why you can’t progress poundages lifted at the moment is that you are doing one or both of two things:

1. You are trying to increase weights lifted too soon and/or by too much.

2. You have not progressed gradually into the poundage increase. If you want to increase weight lifted in the gym never start at your maximum working poundage and try to move up from there. Always cut back by 10-20% first, and then start increasing in small 2-3% increments from there.

weights lifted

This way you will always exceed your previous best. When you reach a sticking point do the same thing again, cut back a little and resume 2-3% progression in upward poundages.

Do not worry about 1 rep maximum lifts – they mean nothing and lead to injuries. What matters most is increasing working poundages for 8-10 reps. If you can improve the amount you lift for 10 reps your single rep maximum will also increase – but that’s just an academic figure, which need never be tested – unless your program absolutely demands it.