Ask anyone who lifts weights if they’d like to be able to lift heavier, and the answer will be an unequivocal “yes.” Just like being able to run faster, the ability to pick up more weight on a consistent basis would feel pretty badass. But there are actually plenty of total-body benefits you'll see along with serious strength gains. We’re talking about everything from better overall heart health to the reduction in depression symptoms.
No surprise, but those who lift heavy tend to see more progress in their strength over a shorter period of time—even when muscle mass is equal to those who lift lighter. And here’s an interesting and encouraging fact published in the medical journal, the Frontiers of Physiology: When you lift heavy, you're also conditioning your nervous system even more effectively, meaning that it will require less effort for your muscles to lift or exert force than someone who uses lighter weights.
So the question now is, how? How can you lift heavier (especially without injuring yourself)? Here are a few trainer-tested hacks, guidelines and pieces of equipment that will ensure you spike your strength levels.
When it comes to lifting heavy, the need for wrist wraps is fairly straightforward. The job of these wraps is to support your wrists—especially during pressing movements like heavy bench presses and overhead presses or pulling movements like deadlifts, rows or shrugs. They also improve your overall joint positioning by preventing hyperextension. Rogue is one of the top brands in fitness equipment, and for good reason. Their wrist wraps are durable, comfortable and come in a range of colors, so you'll be able to find one to fit your personal style. It includes a convenient thumb loop and hook-and-loop closure for a secure fit, easy adjustments, and quick removal.
Wrist wraps, $14.99 by Rogue
If you want to ensure you can consistently lift heavier weights, then you’ll want to get familiar with the principle of “progressive overload.” Put simply, this is when you gradually increase the weight, frequency, or number of repetitions in your strength training routine. The best thing this does for your body is that it will shock your muscles, resulting in them gaining more mass and strength. Without it, it is easy to hit a plateau. While a plateau can be seen as a positive sign that means you’ve made some gains in your weightlifting journey, it also signals that it’s time that you’re ready to increase the weights you’re lifting. It may sound obvious, but if you want to lift heavier weights, you’ll have to, well, pick up heavier weights. It’s also a good idea to keep a record of what you’re lifting each session and make sure that you’re continuing to push yourself safely.
Tension Is Your Friend
Several fitness experts mentioned thinking of your whole body when you want to lift heavy. That’s because our body works as a unit, explains California-based trainer Denzel Allen. The tighter we clench our fist, root our feet into the floor, get more muscles involved in general, the stronger we can be. He says that having the ability to relax and create tension are some of the greatest tricks we can work on to build strength. Think of the barbell overhead press. Doing this move with soft legs and a weak grip, not engaging your core … it’s going to feel so much more difficult to get in solid, clean reps. But when you drive your feet into the floor, squeeze your glutes tight, and really crush the bar with white knuckles, Allen promises that those reps will feel totally different.
Fuel Up Properly
You no doubt already know that getting stronger is not just about what you’re pulling and pushing in the gym, but also about what you’re eating before and after workouts. Nutrition has a huge impact on the body, the way it performs under load and it even influences the way your body recovers after a strenuous workout. Experts recommend consuming at least .7 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. But that can come from a variety of sources. One 2019 study shows that whether you get your protein from whey or actual milk, the amount of muscle weight you gain will be much the same. Of course, since whey protein supplements are easy to take, we'd recommend starting your protein intake there.
* Don't Skip the Warmup: According to the Mayo Clinic, cold muscles are more prone to injury than are warm muscles. Before you lift weights, warm up with five to 10 minutes of brisk walking or other aerobic activity.