The #1 most important thing you can do when trying to build muscle is improving your strength in the gym on big compound exercises like bench press, overhead press, pull ups, rows, squats and deadlifts. If you’re not getting stronger overtime you won’t get bigger either.
I covered this topic completely in this post on progressive overload, where we came to the conclusion that constantly adding weight to the bar is what’s going to net you your results.
Why Micro Plates?
Since the quickest way to build muscle is by adding weight to the bar on large barbell compounds, that’s what your main objective should be.
But this is where it can get troublesome for a lot of people, because most gyms only have 2.5 lb plates as the lowest available weights. This means that each time you’re stepping into the gym to increase weight you’ll have to add two 2.5 lb weights to the bar, one on each side, for a total of 5 lbs extra on the bar.
As a beginner you’ll likely be able to adapt this quickly and be able to increase the weight on the bar with 5 lbs each workout and do just fine, however this wont last for long. Once your newbie gains are over you’ll realize just how heavy adding 5 lbs more to the bar will be, especially on the smaller exercises like overhead press, bench press and rows etc. and this is where micro plates comes into the picture.
Having a few micro plates with you means that you can increase the weight on the bar with only 0.5, 1, 1.5, or 2 lbs per workout, which means you’ll be able to make progress in the gym for a LONG time to come!
The micro plates that I recommend are Ader Fitness Olympic Fractional Plates – 5 LB Set (Check price on Amazon). These come in a 5 lb set with a pair of 0.25, 0.5, 0.75, and 1 lb weights.
The Single Progression of Load
I want to give you a quick progression model that I’ve been using with my micro plates to increase my strength steadily without plateaus for a long time. Here’s what it looks like:
- Pick a weight that you can comfortably hit your prescribed set and rep goal with.
- On your next workout, increase the weight being lifted with as much weight as possible and hit your prescribed set/rep goal again.
- Repeat this process until you no longer can increase weight from session to session without losing reps anymore.
Here’s an example of single progression of load in action:
Let’s say you did bench press and it went like this:
- Set 1: 120 lbs – 5 reps
- Set 2: 120 lbs – 5 reps
- Set 3: 120 lbs – 5 reps
Awesome, your program called for 3 sets of 5 reps and you successfully finished all the reps.
Since you reached your goal sets and reps, it’s now time to increase the weight with as much weight as possible and hit your prescribed set/rep goal again.
Now, the next time you hit bench press, you do this:
- Set 1: 125 lbs – 5 reps
- Set 2: 125 lbs – 5 reps
- Set 3: 125 lbs – 5 reps
You see what happened, right? That’s correct, you progressively overloaded with 5 lbs on each set.
The key here is to try and increase with as much weight as possible when you’re still able to. Let’s say you can increase with 5 lbs on the bar each session in the beginning, once you start to feel that it’s getting hard to increase with 5 lbs, that’s when you with the help of your micro plates go down to 2 lbs per session, once that gets tough you go down to 1.5 lbs and so on.
I’ve found this to be hands down the quickest way to improve my strength levels in the gym in order to get bigger. Now, it usually requires you to invest in a few micro plates since most gyms don’t have these lying around, but I can say with certainty that it’s one of the better investments that I made and I’m confident most people would feel the same.
So, go ahead and check out the price of the Ader Fitness Olympic Fractional Plates – 5 LB Set on Amazon.