How fast should I make progress in the gym?
What should I be lifting?
When should I put the weight up? And by how much?
You know what? These are decent questions. They’re things that people who’ve been training a while can tend to do naturally, and don’t really think about any more. But, when you’re new, or new-ish, it can seem daunting to increase your lifts.
So, the non-glamourous answer is…there’s no ONE answer.
A common issue is lifters “only” progressing by 2.5kg a week on big lifts. And, I get it. It doesn’t seem much to go from just lifting the bar (20kg) to lifting 25kg. The numbers seem, well, small. But here’s the thing: the number might be small, but the percentage increase isn’t. It’s a 25% jump. Tell me you wouldn’t notice that in your pay packet…! So yes, small jumps in NUMBER might be big jumps in reality.
Let’s extrapolate that. Imagine you “only” add 2.5kg every month, and you’ve started with just an empty 20kg bar (and that’s a perfectly normal starting point for new lifters, especially female lifters). That would mean a 50kg lift by the end of the year. 100kg after two years. Given that many, many male lifters never end up benching or squatting 100kg, and many don’t get much further on a deadlift, and we start to see that small, consistent additions make a huge difference. In fact, the chances are you WON’T be able to add 2.5kg every month for very long beyond your honeymoon stage of lifting.
The longer you’ve been lifting, the harder it is to add any weight at all to your top lifts.
In terms of “good” lifts – what should you be aiming at?
Well, let’s assume you’re healthy, injury free and are prepared to put some effort in three times a week for a couple of years. There’s absolutely no reason you shouldn’t be able to lift your bodyweight equivalent for a bench press, around 1.5x your bodyweight for a squat, and 2x your bodyweight for a deadlift (don’t worry if you’re starting your journey with a little extra weight to lose – if your training is done properly, you should be significantly lighter by the time you get to those timescales, so what you weigh at that point should be much lower than where you are now).
I’ll go out on a limb a little and say that those lifts should be attainable even if strength isn’t your over-riding goal – it’s just a by-product of properly organised training and a good level of commitment.
So, next time you’re beating yourself up about lack of progress remember: small, consistent increases eventually create BIG numbers. Jumping up by big numbers to try and get there quicker (a) doesn’t work and (b) almost always gets you injured.
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