Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Quick Tip: Start Too Light

When you're starting out on an exercise, or coming back to one after a break, remember this:

Start too light. Not just light, but too light. If you can 1-rep 135 pound in an exercise and take a month off from it, don't come back at 135 or even 125. Drop back a good 10-20% and work up from there. Don't worry about lost strength, you'll come right back to it. You might even exceed the previous numbers you set. But it's better to start low and work up than to start high and fail or get hurt trying to control a too-heavy weight.

If you've never done an exercise, choose a weight at least 20% under what you think you should use. It's better to finish a set and say "Geez, 20 pounds was too light!" than to finish a set saying "30 pounds was too heavy, and I messed up every rep trying to compensate."

...but don't stay too light. You can stay light, but don't fail to progress. If you start out at 3 sets of 5 reps at 25 pounds in, say, dumbbell rows, you don't want to stay at 3 x 5 x 35 every workout. You need to make progress or your body won't respond by getting stronger, leaner, or more able. Use the usual methods - up the weight, up the reps, or lower the rest times. Challenge your body or you're just spinning your wheels in the gym.

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