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How to Know When It's Time to Go Up in Weights

an we take you higher? Find out if it's time to trade your two-pound weights for threes (or even fives!), ahead.

Love at first sight, unicorn toast... some things feel right immediately. When it comes to the arms section in your SOUL class, however, knowing when to use heavier hand weights may not always be so clear and that uncertainty could be stalling your progress. So just when should you move from two-pound weights to threes?

“I always say, ‘If it's not too much, it's not enough,’” explains New York City instructor ISAAC CALPITO. “There is, however, a difference between challenging yourself and risking injury. Your joints and tendons should never hurt.”

Knowing when to increase the weight is more than just a particular feeling, although that’s a good place to start. Here are a few signs that indicate you’re ready for heavier weights in the studio.

1. Do you feel like you’re being challenged? If the current weight or resistance isn’t creating the same level of perceived exertion while you’re exercising, it’s time to go heavier, notes Marissa Burnsed-Torres, MS, exercise physiologist at Bowerman Sports Science Clinic in Eugene, Oregon. When something that was challenging begins to feel easier, that’s a good thing — but don’t become complacent and ride it out. “When the weights feel light or the series is easy to accomplish, ultimately there has been no change. Seek to reach a point of exhaustion in order to see transformation,” adds Isaac.

2. When does fatigue set in? If you feel like you could go forever and never get tired, that’s a sign that you can handle heavier weights, Burnsed-Torres notes.

3. Have you increased the weight before? If you ride regularly and have never used heavier hand weights before, try testing the waters, says Burnsed-Torres.

4. Know the two-for-two rule. This is a common industry guideline for determining whether you should increase the resistance, Wil Colón, PT, MS, SCS, clinical specialist at NYU Langone’s Sports Performance Center explains. The idea is that if you can do two extra reps (while keeping good form) at the end of your last set for two consecutive training sessions, it’s time to increase the weight.

Of course the most important factor is form. Keeping proper form as you curl, raise, and punch is essential — no matter what set of hand weights you’re using.

Reaching for a heavier set will undoubtedly make you feel like a badass, but it’s also important to understand exactly why you need the added weight. It may seem obvious, but progressing to increased weight will help you get stronger, and improving your strength will help you in every facet of your everyday life, from unloading your groceries to lifting your kids, explains Colón.

The process of getting stronger is accomplished by progressively overloading your muscles over time through stimuli such as heavier weights or increased resistance on the bike, explains Burnsed-Torres. This process will help lead to the neuromuscular adaptations that result in improved muscular strength.

Another potential benefit is increased calorie burn. “More is more. The higher the weight, the more we burn,” adds Isaac. Prevention magazine cites research that has shown that heavier weights create more muscle breakdown (which is a good thing!) because they’ll rebuild stronger, leaner and more metabolically active.

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Article by Bari Lieberman
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