FINE-TUNING YOUR WEIGHTS
The difficult part is behind you, but that doesn't mean an experienced lifter can't fine-tune the working weights. Here are a couple of tips to keep in mind.
1 BUILD IN PROGRESSIVELY HEAVIER WARM-UPS
Some consider warm-ups a waste of time, but they actually enable you to lift more weight. Your tissue is more elastic, and you've practiced the motion before tackling the heavier weights. It's important to note that even though a bodybuilder trains to muscle failure, warm-up sets are never taken to failure. Stop all lighter-weight sets well short of muscle failure. For a bodybuilder who wants to bench with a working weight of 225 pounds, so that they fall within that 8-12-rep range, warm-up weights might start with 135, 185, and 205 pounds.
2 GO HEAVY EARLIER IN YOUR WORKOUT
Because your energy starts to sag over the course of a hard workout, choose the most difficult exercises early in your training session, when you're fresh. You can even train in the lower range of the hypertrophy zone, choosing a weight in which you can do just 8 reps. Over the course of your body-part workout, train with different relative intensities so that you're also including sets of 10 (near failure) and 12 later on as well. Warm-ups excluded, start your exercises in the lower rep range and keep your sets of 12 for later in your workout.
OVER THE COURSE OF YOUR BODY-PART WORKOUT, TRAIN WITH DIFFERENT RELATIVE INTENSITIES.
3 BE MINDFUL OF PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD
Muscles adapt to training by growing bigger and stronger. Strength trainers and bodybuilders know that the most adaptation occurs within their fast-twitch muscle fibers. In graphical terms, your strength curve has shifted outward, and you can now do more reps with any given weight.
How do you know when to go up in weight? Try this method: When you can do 2 more reps with a given weight than you started out with, for two consecutive workouts, increase your weight. So if you started on the bench press with 8 reps of 225 pounds, but can now do 10 reps, and you've been able to achieve 10 reps for two workouts in a row, increase the weight.
For upper-body exercises like the bench press, increase the weight by approximately 5 percent. So instead of using 225 pounds, use 235.
For lower-body exercises like the squat, increase the weight by approximately 10 percent. So instead of using 225 pounds, use 245.
Let's say you make gains in size and strength. To continue making more gains, you must increase the challenge to your muscles by once again increasing the resistance. As you can see, you must progressively increase the overload over time or you'll simply stall. Complacency is your biggest enemy no matter what your goal, so pushing yourself to do more reps or use a slightly heavier weight can help you continue making progress.
Even the most dedicated lifter hits a training plateau sooner or later. Advanced techniques in which you manipulate weight can further spur gains in size and strength, but should be done in a specific, intentional manner rather than randomly. Study various techniques that allow you to cycle your training over time.
You'll soon learn that the bigger and stronger you get, the less you'll see "accidental" results, and the more you'll have to plan your training. Seems counterintuitive, but you'll find you make greater gains the more you know.