You’ve been doing a range of workouts, taking classes and hitting the gym on a regular basis but now you’re starting to feel like your body’s not changing anymore. You’re finding your routines are becoming increasingly easy and your muscles are no longer growing. You’ve hit a plateau.

If this describes exactly how you feel then it’s highly likely that the weights you’re lifting aren’t enough. You may be lifting the same kettlebells that you’ve been using for the last 6 weeks in your class or you may be training with 3 pound weights when you could easily be using 10 pound ones. If this is the case, you need to be pushing your body and increasing your weights. By not changing your routine or upping your weights, your exercise regime will become like your weight lifting shoe – comfortable – and if you want to reach peak physical fitness, your regime should not be a walk in the park.

One fundamental element in bodybuilding is progressive overload, which means that you need to keep demanding more from your body in order to get stronger and bigger. However, this doesn’t just mean that with every workout you do you need to add more weights because this could have a detrimental effect on your fitness and health. Instead, it means that you need to listen to your body and push it when you can.

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Lifting Heavier and What to Expect

The first thing you need to expect when you start lifting heavier is that you’re not going to see results overnight. For some people they may want to wake up completely ripped following their workout the previous day whilst for others, and especially women, the thought of becoming too ripped can hold them back.

However, strengthening your muscles and building your body to look at certain way takes time and your body will gradually change as you up your routine and weight lifting. For women, bodybuilding can help decrease fat and increase their lean body mass but they won’t pack on lots of muscle because their hormone profile is different.

The reality of what you need to expect when you start lifting heavier is that you’re going to be changing your body, and for the better. And you can tailor these results by increasing how many reps you’re doing, what exercises you’re doing and how much you increase your weights by.

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Start with Small Weights

When you start pushing your body more, it’s important that you start small and determine the right weight for your body, regardless of whether you’re upping the weight on an exercise you’ve been doing for months or you’re trying something new.

If you are starting with something new, try lifting something that’s half the weight that you’d expect to lift. This should feel easy and you should be able to tell that you’re in really good form. Then continue to increase the weight doing a few reps with each until you find one that’s challenging and you have to slow down to complete the repetitions. This should be the weight that you’re using for your first sets in your exercise regime.

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Understand When It’s Time to Increase the Weight

Whatever you’re experienced with, whether it’s kettlebells or dumbbells, you need to know how and when you should be adding more weight. After you’ve completed your sets, think about how you feel and how long they took you. These will tell you whether going heavier is right because if you were really slow at the end and you were out of breath, you’re at the right weight already and don’t need to increase it any further. But if you find it really easy and you complete your reps at normal speed, going heavier is probably the answer.

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Knowing How Much Weight You Should Be Adding

When you increase your weights you shouldn’t be doing it by huge amounts but you do need to up your weight amounts in order to benefit. If you’re training regularly, adding weights every week is recommended but don’t forget to listen to your body. Yes, you need to push yourself but you shouldn’t be overexerting yourself so much that you go beyond your body’s limits. Understand your body and you’ll be able to lift more.

You’ll start to feel as though you’re wasting your time if you’re doing lots of reps at a light weight, and even though you may be a pro at lifting this amount of pounds for hundreds of reps, that’s the only thing that you’ll be good at. Instead, if you want to challenge yourself and continue to change your body, you need to be increasing the amount of weight that you’re using in your workouts.

Tyler Watson writes about body building, his articles appearing on a selection of men’s lifestyle and men’s health blogs. He works as a personal fitness trainer and himself first became interested in body building at age 19.