The return doesn't actually work the muscle harder, inch-by-inch, moment-by-moment, but since the return generally releases tension/weight or works with gravity, doing it more slowly makes the work harder. If you watch most of the heavy-lifting grunting idiots (I do NOT mean serious, well-trained lifters, just the show offs) they lift enormous weights, then all but drop them in the return. That's fine for some things, but if you are reaching your 'top limit' in weight, you can get more with less by slowing the return down.
And BREATHE--that's something slow-reppers, especially, have to remember. You want strength, not stress.
I'm not sure that the return actually works the muscle harder, but certainly it is a part of ST that many people overlook/neglect. And there are some easy gains to be made in terms of effectiveness of your training by making sure that the negative/return is done in a slow and controlled manner.
12/11/13 12:27 A
Waycat, this is an issue many of us deal with at one time or another. Thanks for raising the question and to all who chimed in. There's a lot of useful info and food for thought here.
I tend to try and concentrate on the return motion and going as slow as I can during that movement - I've heard it's the return more than the actual lifting that works the muscle harder.
However, I haven't actually tried holding the weight for a few seconds before I start the return motion, so I shall give that a go and see how I feel.
12/10/13 10:29 A
Another helpful trick is to slow your reps down A LOT; speed is no virtue in most strength routines. Going slow, the muscles support the activity longer; as long as form is good, it's beneficial. If I'm doing a chest press, for instance, I pull out slowly, hold for a 2-3 count and release very slowly--with no wobbles or staggers. Means I can use each weight level far longer and the benefits are very practical.
Hey guys, many thanks for all the really helpful posts in response to my question.
From what I've read, it seems that I probably need to step things up just a bit in terms of switching from machines to free weights and adding in more core work.
I do mix and match at the moment, in that I use both machines and free weights. It's just difficult on some days because at my gym the free weights area tends to be over run with blokes - especially during the week - and there isn't any free space, so that's when I tend to favour the machines.
At the weekend it's much easier for me to hit the free weights, and so I concentrate on using them then.
I understand about machines "assisting" in the lifting process, thus creating the impression that you are lifting heavier weight than you would using free weights. This is one reason why I like to use a bit of both, if you will.
I have toyed with the idea of booking a few sessions with a PT to get a proper program put together, so I make the best use of my time at the gym and make the most of the equipment they have.
Thanks everyone - some really useful information here that I shall read and save for future refrence.
Fitness Minutes: (97,762)
12/9/13 10:51 P
If you do want to get stronger and keep lifting heavier weights, try a wave program (sometimes also called periodization). Check this out for a quick overview and explanation:
Lou Schuler and Alwyn Cosgrove's new book "New Rules of Lifting: Supercharged" uses wave training. I just completed this and felt it was really successful in helping me get a lot stronger. I reached one-rep maximums I'd never gotten to before. So I certainly don't believe you get to the point where you just can't get any stronger. If you keep challenging yourself, you will get stronger for sure.
I really don't have any advise but I do understand as I am stuck at 51 lb. squat weights. I have been there for 6 months.
Fitness Minutes: (287,018)
12/9/13 11:41 A
As others have noted, it's not unusual for a person to see quick gains in strength when they first start a strength training program. However, as you progress into heavier weights, you may have noticed that you have to stick longer with a particular weight before you can move on to your next increment.
Example, when I started doing chest presses with hand weights, I started with 20 pounds. In about a year, I went from 20 pound weights up to 35 pounds. With continued practice, I can currently press with two 45 or 50 pound free weights. At the moment, I'm sort of at my own set point as you call it. I've tried 55 pounds, but I struggle with the weight. My muscles aren't strong enough.
One thing that I am doing that I'm going to suggest to you is a change of routine. If you find that you have reached a max point, it's time to add exercises that work your muscles in a different way. Example, if you have been using the same machines, then consider trying the same exercise with free weights. So, if you've been using the chest fly machine, don't use the machine, swap over to hand weights.
You will have to drop the weight. If you can do 50 pounds on the chest fly machine, start wtih 15 pound free weights. The dirty little secret about machines is that they use mechanical advantage to help you lift the weight. IF you were to swap over to a routine that uses free weights, I think you'll find that you'll be able to break past that stopping point.
When a person uses free weights to perform an exercise like chest press, rows, shoulder press, etc... they use more muscles to peform the action. Remember, a person needs to use extra muscles to work against gravity as well as keep their body balanced.
Do you do any balance exercises ? Do you do any core work ? Try adding balance exercises to your routine such as standing on a BOSU. Standing on an unsteady surface forces your body to use more "stability" muscles to stay balanced. My thought is that if you can increase the efficiency of your stability muscles, that should also help you to lift heavier weights.
This is what I do as part of my own routine. I do a lot of core work and I do a lot of balance work. And well, you might just have to be patient. Like I mentioned earlier, when you get into heavier weights, it does take longer to move to the next level. But, I suspect if you change your routine to include more free weight work instead of machines as well as core/balance work, you should start to see improvements again.
Do you have a bit of extra money ? This might be a good time to consider investing in a personal trainer. You don't have to buy 10 sessions. See what deals are being offerred. If you can afford 4-6 sessions, that would be helpful. If you can't afford a PT, check your schedule for a group weight training class. Take the class and talk to the instructor. The instructor can give you pointers on using free weights properly.
A lot of initial strength gains come from the nerves controlling muscle fibers learning better how to co-ordinate themselves (aka 'neuromuscular adaptation') - basically learning exactly in what sequence they need to fire, and how many are required for a particular weight (and no more).
Over a few months, your muscles will have got most of these 'efficiency gains', and further increases in strength will have to come from increased muscle mass. Gaining muscle mass is a slow process (especially for women).
Although you are unlikely to see strength gains as quickly as in the early stages of ST, if you stick with it over a period of months, you are likely to see further strength gains as you slowly increase muscle mass.
Also, most injuries come from either doing something you are not used to, bad form, or some kind of 'explosive' movement that loads your muscles and tendons at extremely levels for just a fraction of a second. Injuries are less likely doing exercises you are familiar with, and the slow and controlled movements of good form, even at heavy weights.
You have to listen to your body. It is the authority on this type of situation. Once you have reached the point where lifting anymore weight gets uncomfortable it is time to stop. A suggestion is to maintain the given weight twice as long as usual then try to increase it. However, if it feels uncomfortable then stop as you have reached your max.
Fitness Minutes: (86,237)
12/9/13 5:18 A
I imagine you'd have to reach a point where you can't increase weight any further. You would have to gain weight (or LBM) to build further strength.
When weight training, does your body eventually reach a "set point" where it is physically impossible for you to lift any heavier?
I seem to have come to a halt with both weight machines and free weights, in that I think I may have reached my maximum in terms of how heavy I can lift.
I've been gradually increasing the weight over the last few months, but now feel that (1) my form will suffer and (2) I will injure myself if I try to add more weight.
So I was just basically wondering if anyone knows whether our bodies can only lift so much? I guess it would be true, or given time we'd all be lifting inordinate amounts of weight with no upper limit which of course would be impossible!
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