How to Tell If You’re Getting Stronger

One of the things I found most frustrating about lifting weights in the beginning was how much time it took to notice any tangible results from my workouts.

My body didn’t look any more toned when I stood in front of a mirror and the weights felt just as heavy in new sessions as they had in the ones before it.

Looking back, there were several reasons for this:

  1. The workouts I did back then were shorter and less challenging than my current routine.
  2. I wasn’t doing them as regularly I as did now.
  3. I didn’t know how hard to push myself or when to move up to heavier weights.

By far the biggest reason why I was frustrated, though, is that these kinds of changes take time. Nobody goes to sleep one evening after lifting 2 pound weights and wakes up the next morning suddenly able to lift 20 or 200 pounds. Strengthening and building muscles requires longterm effort and dedication.

There are no quick fixes, but there can be telltale signs that you’re on the right track if you pay close attention to what you’re currently able to do and how those limits evolve over time.

For example, go take a look at this exercise video. It’s one I’ve been using for a while now, and I’ve been able to do every move in it successfully and with good form except for the one that begins 8 minutes and 50 seconds into the routine:


If I balanced my lower body on my knees, I could always lift my upper body up with one arm. That was never too difficult for me, and it’s been downright easy for a while now.

Despite giving it multiple valiant efforts, I was never able to do the advanced form of this exercise until a couple of days ago. I was so accustomed to not being strong enough to do this move that I was shocked into a short burst of quiet laughter when it suddenly worked. How in the heck did that happen, I wondered?

My form definitely still needs work, but I’m thrilled to finally have grown strong enough to do this move. My new goal is to do it for the entire amount of time and with the correct form from beginning to end. If I can do a wobbly version for two or three rounds now, I have high hopes that I’ll grow even stronger in the near future and soon make my goal. After that happens, I will look for a new, more challenging upper body routine and start the cycle over again.

I kept going in the beginning before I saw any real results because I knew that regularly lifting weights would do wonders for my muscle and bone health. Now that I’m seeing external changes that matched the internal ones I trusted were happening, I’m even more motivated to continue lifting and pushing myself to be better in the future.

Celebrate Every Success

I’m a firm believer in celebrating every success if you’re having trouble perfecting a specific move or need some encouragement as you grow stronger and fitter.

Not every goal needs to be related to a specific number like your weight, how many pounds you lift, or how many minutes you can workout in a session.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with keeping track of those things and celebrating when you reach numerical goals. I keep track of them for the sheer joy of seeing how they’ve changed over time.

With that being said, Sometimes success comes in quieter ways that are every bit as encouraging like:

  • Improving your form.
  • Suddenly noticing that the weights feel lighter.
  • Being able to do more repetitions of a move.
  • Finding difficult moves easy, and formerly impossible moves only difficult now.

Even very small changes can lead to huge results over the long haul. Every time you take note of something like this, know that you’re a little stronger than you were before and that it’s only a matter of time before you’ll notice even more exciting changes in what you’re capable of.

Honestly, most of the notes I’ve taken about my workouts have been mental ones. While I have begun spreading my general love of spreadsheets to include facts about my workout routine, this is really only necessary for those of us who are self-described Numbers or Excel nerds. Haha!

Mental notes honestly do work well if you pay attention to what you are and aren’t able to currently do and take notice when those limitations begin to change.

The important thing is to pay attention. If you put in the work and figure out a health and fitness routine that works best for you, you will almost certainly be rewarded in both big and small ways.

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