Poliquin Live

Tip 103: You need to coax muscles into muscles into strength and mass gains, not force them.

Thursday, April 29, 2010 9:32 AM

One of the most common reasons why people fail to consistent gains, is that they are stuck a given set of dumbbells, or a set barbell weight for a number of reps for extended periods of time.

It is easier, physically and psychologically, to increase weight in small increments. Unfortunately, the smallest plate available in most gyms is two and a half pounds, so the smallest weight increment on a barbell is five pounds.  That’s usually the smallest increment on dumbbells as well, so it’s actually ten pounds when you’re using them in pairs.  You can easily see how a five-pound increase is too big a jump if you’re using, say, a single 20-pound dumbbell to work the rotator cuff muscles of the shoulder.  It’s a 25-percent increase in load.  It would be like trying to jump straight to 500 pounds on a lift where you can do 400.  You need ways to coax, not force, your muscles to adapt to greater loads.

The best way to coax your muscles into adaptation is through application of the Kaizen Principle.  In Japanese, “Kaizen” means “constant and never-ending improvement.”  It is a philosophy that small, incremental improvements made consistently will, over the long term, produce large gains.  As practical advice for loading, this translates to “increase the weight at every opportunity, even if the increase is very small.”

There are several ways to increase the weight in small increments:

1.    PlateMates
2.    Small discs
3.    Combinations of pound and kilogram plates
4.    Assorted weight collars

One approach is to use PlateMate magnetic weights.  The principal advantage of PlateMates is that they attach easily to dumbbells as well as to barbells.  The manufacturer, Benoit Built, Inc., offers them in 2-, 1-, 1-, and -pound sizes in two shapes: donut and hexagon.  I recommend the donut-shaped weights, since they fit both circular and hexagonal dumbbells.  To order PlateMates, visit
If you want to find a store near you that carries them, click here.

Alternately, you can use Eleiko Olympic small discs of 2.0, 1.5, 1.0, 0.5 and 0.25 kilograms.  They fit on Olympic-size bars and dumbbells. If you are a PICP coach, you qualify for a discount when ordering from Eleiko. They come with a friction option, which is great because they can act as collars, or in a less expensive metallic version. To get your PICP discount, contact Annika Swaffer-Gartnell.

For Imperial system weights (pounds), your best bet is Grace Fitness small plates (1-800-842-6637). They sell a wide array of small plates in different colors and finishes. They will even engrave your name on them so you can certify ownership if the $4.00 an hour moronic gym attendant is busting your chops and accusing you of leaving the gym with “their equipment”. Or if you are a gym owner, they can print your company’s name on them.

You can also use combinations of kilogram and pound plates along with the EZ bar solid collars.  For example, 1.25- and 2.5-kilogram plates weigh 2.75 and 5.5 pounds respectively.  An EZ bar collar weighs about 1.5 pounds. If the base weight on the bar is 225 and your personal best for one rep is 240, you could apply the Kaizen principle to increase the weight in the following manner:

225 + 2(5) + 2(2.5)     = 240.0
225 + 2(5) + 2(2.75)     = 240.5
225 + 2(5.5) + 2(2.5)     = 241.0
225 + 2(5.5) + 2(2.75)     = 241.5
225 + 2(5) + 2(2.5) + 2(1.5)     = 243.0
225 + 2(5) + 2(2.75) + 2(1.5)     = 243.5
225 + 2(5.5) + 2(2.5) + 2(1.5)     = 244.0

Finally, you can use collars of various weights.  Former Olympic thrower Bruno Pauletto’s company, Power Systems, sells assorted collars.  The Olympic Okie Grip Collars weigh 2 pounds each, the Olympic Metal Quicklee Collars weigh 1 pound each, and the Olympic Muscle Clamps weigh 0.5 pounds each.  Combinations of these collars allow you to increase the weight by 1, 2, 3, or 4 pounds at a time.  I particularly like the Okie grips if I am going to work with my customized, thick-grip Olympic bar.  The rubber inner lining of the Okie grips prevents slipping.  I bought my first pair in 1986, and they still hold tightly on the bar, even with very heavy loads.  These collars can be purchased by phone at 1-800-321-6975 or by fax at 1-800-298-2057.




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