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…