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Whether you want to get bigger, stronger, or both, you know that you have to increase weight in the gym. By consistently and incrementally putting more weight on the bar, you’re increasing stress on the muscle and utilizing the principle of progressive overload. However, the question is how often you should increase weight and by how much. This article will help you solve that problem.
Before you can think about when to increase weight, you need to get an idea of how many reps you should be doing per set. This is because adding weight is only one way of applying progressive overload. The other way is by increasing reps. To maximize development, you’ll want to employ both.
There are many rep ranges you could use, but 6-8 and 8-10 should be your two “go to” solutions. 6-8 reps is good for your first big compound exercise per muscle group, where you can focus as much on strength as hypertrophy. After that, switch to 8-10 reps per set to put a little more emphasis on muscle mass.
The “2 for 2” rule works best when you have one main heaviest set per exercise. This could either be with minimal build up or multiple sets of the same reps with increased weight. For example, say you’re starting your chest workout with bench press. You could do 3-4 sets of increasingly heavier warmup sets with no more volume than is necessary, building up to your “main” set of 6-8 reps. After that, you’d back the weight off a little, doing another 2-3 sets of 6-8.
On the flip side, you could do 6-8 reps on every single set, adding weight as you go. Doing it this way, your final set of bench press would be your heaviest. Whichever method you choose, you have one target set that you’ll measure as your maximum effort for that exercise.
When you can do 2 more reps with the same weight for 2 workouts in a row, it’s time to bump it up. Continuing with the bench press example, say you used the latter method above, making your last set of 6-8 your heaviest.
When you begin, your top-end set is with 185lbs for 6 reps. Keep that the same every workout, striving to push that last set as far as you can. When you can get 8 reps for 2 workouts consecutively, it’s time to increase weight. You’d also treat sets of 8-10 in the same fashion.
Now that it’s time to increase weight, you need to know how much to put on the bar. A good rule is to increase upper body lifts by 5% and lower body lifts by 10%. So when you hit 8 reps (up from 6) on the bench press with 185lbs, increase it by 5%, or 9.25lbs. Round this up to 10lbs, using 195 in your next workout.
This is a very simplified approach, but don’t let that fool you. By consistently increasing 5% and 10% via the “2 for 2” method, you’ll find your weights continually going up. Over time, this will lead to a great deal of added strength and muscular size.