4 Random Weight Training Tips To Improve Your Workouts

If you do anything long enough, you’ll eventually (err, hopefully) get better at it. When it comes to weight training, the “better” we’re usually referring to is stronger. But there’s actually another kind of “better” that comes with experience… smarter.

Not just in terms of learning right from wrong, effective from ineffective, and truth from bullshit, but also just learning ways to make weight training faster, safer, easier or just better in some way.

Here now are 4 random workout tips that fit that description…

1. How To Add Smaller Weight Increments To Machine & Cable Exercises

When doing a barbell exercise, you can typically increase the weight in increments as small as 5lbs by putting a 2.5lb plate on each side of the bar.

However, most machine and cable based exercises don’t work that way. Instead, they involve putting a pin into a weight stack, and that means you’re forced to go up in whatever increment of weight this machine’s weight stack was built with.

And in my experience, it’s very rarely 5lbs. Most cable/machine exercises in the gyms I’ve been in go up in 10lb increments. Many others actually go up in 12lb, 15lb or even 20lb increments.

For most people on most exercises, that’s just going to be WAY more of a weight jump than we’d prefer to have. Hell, even 10lbs is twice the amount we’d typically increase a barbell exercise by and we’ll be lucky if the machine even allows that. As you’ve probably noticed, this is annoying as hell.

It also makes our primary goal, progressive overload, harder to make happen.

Unless of course you know the simple trick for getting around it. Oh, you don’t? Well allow me to fill you in.

Let’s say you want to only add 5lbs to this exercise. Get yourself a 5lb plate (the same one you’d put on a barbell) and hold it flat against the weight stack. Now take the pin and put it through the middle of the 5lb plate AND THEN into the weight stack so the 5lb plate basically becomes attached to the stack.

Taaadaaa… now you can go up in 5lb increments. In fact, you can go up in 2.5lb increments if you want.

This is some straight up MacGyver shit, but it works perfectly. Try it and see.

Oh, and yes… some gyms do have these flat incremental weights for you to add to the top of a machine’s weight stack for this very purpose. The problems however are that A) not all gyms have them, and B) these “incremental” weights are often 7.5lbs or 10lbs (I once saw 6.5lbs… strange), and rarely the 2-5lbs you’re looking for.

2. How To Get The Dumbbells Up Into Position

I’ve discussed barbells vs dumbbells before, and each has their own pros and cons. One example of this is the fact that a barbell is usually in a rack or stand of some kind that makes it easier for you to begin your set.

For example, when you lay down on a bench to bench press, you don’t start with the bar on your chest. It’s already up above you on a rack. You just need to unrack it and you’re already in the top position. Barbell shoulder pressing is the same way. Super convenient, isn’t it?

But with dumbbells, you don’t have that luxury. You have to take them from the rack, carry them to whatever bench/seat you’re using, and begin your set with the weight in the bottom position rather than the top position. Actually, it’s not even the bottom position. It’s the floor.

Now for most beginners, this isn’t that big of a deal. You’re relatively weak and the weights are relatively light. But as most intermediate/advanced trainees eventually notice, the stronger you get, the harder this becomes.

It’s one thing to get 30lb dumbbells up for some type of chest or shoulder press, and another thing to get 60lb dumbbells up for those same exercises. And it’s another thing to get 80lb dumbbells up. And a whole other thing altogether to get 100lb dumbbells up and beyond.

Getting a spotter to help you get the dumbbells up is certainly a great option, probably the best of all. If you have one available, go for it.

But if not, you’re going to soon find that you’re putting forth significantly more effort getting the dumbbells up for the first rep than you are in the whole rest of the set combined. And that sucks.

But there’s actually a quick and easy trick for getting around this. Rather than try to explain it, here are 2 videos of the same guy putting it into action for a flat and incline dumbbell press.

(Video Disclaimer: I’m not endorsing anything about this guy, his YouTube channel, his other videos, or really anything he does, says or sells beyond what is being shown in these specific videos. It may all be great, or it may all be crap. I haven’t looked.)

3. How To Take The Weights Off The Bar Much Faster & Easier

Ever get to a bar that someone just finished using, and they left it loaded with much more weight than you’re going to be using… especially on your first light warm up set?

Or maybe you just did your heaviest set of an exercise like deadlifts, and you want to take all the weight off for some other exercise or just to not be a dick to the next person who’s going to use it.

If you’ve been in either situation before, you may find it to be a bit of a pain in the ass to empty the bar, especially when it’s on the floor and loaded with 45’s.

Well, good news. There’s a faster and easier way to do it. Once again, rather than try to explain it, here’s a video of it in action.

(Video Disclaimer: I’m not endorsing anything about this guy, his YouTube channel, his other videos, or really anything he does, says or sells beyond what is being shown in this specific video. It may all be great, or it may all be crap. I haven’t looked.)

4. How To Get Out When Stuck Under The Bar On The Bench Press

One of the worst things about the barbell bench press is that it’s one of the only exercises where, if you reach failure and can’t complete the rep, you’re basically going to be stuck with no way out.

Most other exercises allow you to just drop the bar off in some direction. For example, with barbell shoulder presses, you can just let the weight drop in front of you if you get stuck. With squats, you can just drop the bar off on the safety bars (assuming you’ve set them to the right height).

But with the barbell bench press, you don’t usually have those options.

That’s when a spotter comes in handy. You know, someone standing by to grab that bar in case you get stuck. Thing is, many of us don’t have a regular spotter. And that means many of us end up bench pressing alone.

What the hell happens if you get stuck now?

Well, there are actually a few ways to get out of this scenario safely, and I’ve already covered most of them right here: Bench Press Fail: Stuck & Pinned By The Bar Without A Spotter

You’ll be happy to know that decapitation isn’t your only option.

What About You?

Do you have any of your own random weight training tips to share? Something you’ve picked up somewhere or figured out on your own that somehow makes your workouts just a little better, easier, faster or smarter?

Let’s hear ’em…

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About Jay
Jay is the science-based writer and researcher behind everything you've seen here. He has 15+ years of experience helping thousands of men and women lose fat, gain muscle, and build their "goal body." His work has been featured by the likes of Time, The Huffington Post, CNET, Business Week and more, referenced in studies, used in textbooks, quoted in publications, and adapted by coaches, trainers, and diet professionals at every level.

23 thoughts on “4 Random Weight Training Tips To Improve Your Workouts”


  1. I’m not at the point where I need these tips yet but it’s good to know.Thanks!Do you have any tips on how to not break my lower back when I spot someone who insists on going to ABSOLUTE failure on every single set ?My training partner is more advanced than me and lifts heavier.The bench in my gym sucks and when I put the bar back I can’t just lift with my legs because I have to lift it as high as my elbow area.My lower back always ends up hurting a little after I spot someone.

    • If possible, finding something to stand on so you’re higher up should help, but it has to be something stable (like a step from an aerobics class) so, ya know, you don’t fall and/or drop the bar on them. The other option is to just explain the issue to whoever is asking for you a spot.

  2. Thanks for the tips as always Jay, pleased you used Scott Herman video’s, I actually watch his video’s to make sure I have my form right, like you I think he knows what he’s talking about. A question, I have been doing your beginner program for 5 months now and I feel ready to move on, would you say it’s ok to move to the intermediate workout in January?

  3. There is a special tool that I used at the gym for taking weights off the bar after I do dead lifts. I’m not in a hurry especially after 4-5sets. Rest is essential and averting injury in the gym is a must. The video with the guy using his knees and leaning forward then going back is OK.
    I use small stools one on each side of the bench. I place the weight on the stool, grabbing and gripping each one and placing them on my knees one at a time, lean forward, then while going to lay on the bench, I throwing the weights up. And the guy with a training partner that is lifting way too much for his bro to handle, get two other big guys in the gym to spot for him and save yourself from disability.

  4. Great site man, some of the most practical and applicable advice on lifting I’ve seen anywhere. As far as the tips go, I’m definitely going to use number 3, the trap bar at my gym is not fitted properly for the weights and they are nearly impossible to get on and off without 7 minutes of wiggling. As far #4 goes, IMO you should only be doing the barbell bench press with a spotter, if you don’t have a regular one you can always use the smith machine with stoppers.

  5. It was incline dumbell presses today on your Upper Body A Workout & the “How to get the dumbells up” video I watched last night really made a big difference. Thanks a lot for posting it.

  6. Have recently purchased your training manual and find it to be great!!! Was just wondering what tempo you would use for lifting. I have been lifting fast and lowering slow but would be interested in what you recommend. Thanks

  7. Also number 2 works with shoulder press too. Of course since you don’t have a chance to throw your body back while you are doing shoulder press, you can just lift one knee at a time while the dumbbells are resting on them and use the momentum to bring the dumbbells to the starting position.

  8. Hi Jay,

    Great blog, been reading it for days.

    Quick question: What are your thoughts on using a Smith Machine as an alternative for a Bench Press?


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