Weight Training - How long for actual strength to increase.

I have been doing it every other day for over a month now. I’ve seen muscles harden and their flexed selves are bigger than they were, but I don’t seem to be any stronger.

The reason I think this is I am doing high-intensity workout, i.e. few reps with heavy weights. At the beginning I could just about do 10 reps before I could NOT do another rep.

A month on, I can still do 10 reps and no more. The weight hasn’t increased.

I am getting plenty of protein (about 60-80 grams on days when I train) and a fair amount of other stuff too (fat, carbs)

My weights are at home, so am having to work this out from memory - each dumbell is about 12 kilograms. (2.5kg x4, plus the bar - 2kg)

Lifting the same weights for 10 reps over and over again will not increase your strength. Performing an actual high intensity workout (multi-joint movements in the 3-5 rep range for a total of 25-30 reps per exercise) will.

Can you elaborate on that?

Basically, if you want to get stronger, you have to lift heavy weights, and heavier weights are going to be more effective than lighter weights for a given movement. If you want to develop real-world strength, you need to choose movements that mimic what you do outside the gym, and those are almost always exercises that involve multiple joints.

There’s really only so much you can do with a couple of 30 lb weights (I’m American, I don’t think in Kg). To build actual strength you need to work out with increasingly heavier weights.

Increase the weight so that you cannot do 10 reps. Shoot for 5-7 reps to failure.
High intensity requires a lot rest as well - that’s when growth happens.

So I need to increase the weight so that I can only do about 6 or 8 reps?

And so that each movement simultaneously uses two or more joints?
(I’ll need to go out and buy some more discs for my dumbells then, or replace the 2.5kg ones with something heavier, as I’m already very short of available space on the bar)

I’m guessing your are trying to build up your biceps. Yes you will need more weight. And not just a single step up. Once you plateau there you will need to increase again. Rinse, repeat.

Think of it this way, at any given time you are x strong without working out. If your strength level allows you to lift x 10 times, then doing that won’t increase your strength it just validates it.

Having been home since I posted, I looked at my weights and I miscalculated. I forgot the 1.25kg weights on each end. That’s an extra 2.5 so the total for each tumbell is around 14.5kg (about 32 pounds)
As an experiment, I took the 1.25s off one of the dumbells and put the 2.5s from the dumbells onto it. Totalling 17kg (38 pounds)

I can’t do ONE rep at that weight. I’ll have to make sure I buy the right weight to add, making it up to about 15 or 16 kg per dumbell.
So If I repeatedly do 7 reps per set (say 3 sets per session) and I can manage it, and my form is correct, and I get enough protein, will my strength improve? Will I see noticable improvement after one month?

My age is 28 (29 in six days) and my weight is just under 13 stone. My height is 6’1

One rep of what?


I’m talking about curls.

But it’s irrelevent for the point I’m trying to get at - If I can’t do one rep of [whatever] then the weight is too heavy for [whatever] substitute [whatever] for whatever.

I am saying that I need to get the weight just right so that I can just about do 7 reps and no more… and it’s more precise than I thought it would be.

Edit: If I’m doing it wrong I have no intention of being defensive about what I’ve been doing. I want to do it right. If I do get defensive it’s not intentional.

When I was strength training, my policy was that if I could do 10 reps, the weight was too light, and fewer than 5 reps, it was too heavy. If I could do 10, it was time to add more weight and try another set. I might get between 5 - 9 reps at first with the increased weight. Eventually, I was able to lift the higher weight for 10 reps, at which point it was time to add more weight again, etc., etc.

I think your problem is mental, not physical. Your brain has subconsciously locked onto that weight you’ve been doing, and refuses to do any more past that. I recommend changing your exercise routine for another month, then going back to those weights–you’ll find that they’re suddenly easier than you remember.

This happened to me, too. At one point, I was convinced I was struggling with lifting a certain weight 5-7 reps. My friend suggested I add some weight, and I thought he was crazy. We added some weight and, to my surprise, I could lift the heavier weight the same number of reps as the lighter weight. You might use a spotter if you try this.

Are you a member of a gym? It can be tough to get a good workout at home - needs a lot of discipline and ingenuity if you don’t have the right tools to hand (e.g. a decent weight bench, space). I’m fairly sure you can use dumbells for just about anything, but you’re talking about some pretty big dumbells for the compound lifts that are so effective at building strength.

I was a member of a Gym, but for me that takes more discipline to get myself ready and down there. It was costing too much for how often I was actually going.

At home I can simply get out of bed, work out, and then shower and dress for work.

If I were you I’d join up again, and try scheduling your workout in the morning before work. You need to take a shower in the morning anyway, right? So why not spend a little time at the gym before that. I did that when I was working, (and will again, if I ever manage to rejoin the gainfully employed). There is nothing better you can do to promote a consistent workout schedule. If you do it later in the day, it’s too easy for the demands of the workday to interfere.

Now that I’m not working, I too find it hard to motivate myself for a trip to the gym.

There could be two things going on here. Muscle adapts to weight bearing exercises better and faster than your joints. So what you perceive as lack of strength could very well be lack of ligament and tendon strength. This will likely take up to 6months to overcome.

I disagree that you should move to lower rep exercises, but second the thought that you should be using more compound movements as you base work out. Structure your work out around 6 exercises with 3 sets of 8-10 reps each of any weight. If you find that you’re plateauing, start what’s called a pyramid: do 2 sets with the same weight doing as many reps as possible. On the third set, do as many reps as possible and when you reach failure, take off around 5lbs (or ~2 kilos if I’m not mistaken) and do more reps till failure, then take off 5 more pounds, etc. By the end you should be curling the bar with no weight on it and feeling like that is 400lbs.

I feel that the problem you’re running into is mental. In order to build muscle, you not only need to break down your existing muscle, but you need to recruit more neuromuscular junctions, i.e. use more of your existing muscle cells. Keep at it. It can take some time to get over that hump, but it will come.

right. I’ve been steadily increasing my strength by doing multiple reps with slightly lower weights (sets of 12 reps) and then increasing the weights by 5 lb increments until I can only do about 5 or 6 reps to failure. Then going back down 5 lbs and doing THAT to failure and then down 5lbs and same thing until I hit my original weight. I give myself about 30 seconds rest between sets. And I give myself three days or so between workouts with the same muscle groups.

Make sure you’re doing a variety of exercises. Bench press, for example, primarily work your pecs, but they also use a variety of other muscle groups-- the delts, for one. If you’re focusing on exercises that isolate certain muscle groups (I think curls, for instance, work only your biceps), you may not be building the surrounding muscle enough to see a general strength increase.

Even so, if you were just working on curls, you should have seen a slight strength increase in working out consistently for a month. Are your muscles tired the next day? In my experience, 3 sets of 10 is enough to build strength, but if it’s not working for you then try increasing the weight, as others have suggested. One type I was fond of was a set of 10, increasing 2.5 kilos (or whatever it takes), doing a set of 8, increasing the weight, and doing a set of 6.

When I was lifting, I seemed to remember my arms being tired from immediately after my workout to about an hour afterwards, and then the next day they were actually sore (eg painful to use in my daily routine, tender to the touch). When you lift to increase strength, you’re creating tiny tears in the muscle tissue, which fills in with more muscle (hence why you need the protein), so they should hurt a little bit.

There are other things you can do (supersets and such), but I would work on increasing overall strength by doing exercises that target large muscle groups (bench, lat pulldown, military, incline bench-- for upper, squat, deadlift, lunges-- for lower), and it should start getting you where you want to be.