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8 ways to improve your strength workouts

It's no secret, that in order to build muscle and get stronger you need to lift weights and progress your training over time. A good strength training program can help you with this. However, if you feel like you've hit a plateau in your workouts here are 8 ways to improve your gym workouts. Scroll down to read: What is progressive overload; How to apply progressive overload; and 8 effective ways to improve your strength workouts and spice up your workouts ☺️

tips to improve your strength workouts

Why do I need to increase training volume? What is progressive overload?

To build muscle and get stronger we need to always challenge our muscles, so they have a reason to grow.

When you lift heavy weights to the point where you are struggling to complete the last couple reps in your set, you are essentially breaking down the muscle fibre (which is a good thing!). 24-72 hours after your workout, the muscle is then building itself back up so that next time it is able to lift that weight.

If you were to always train the exact same programme and lift the exact same weights in every single workout, your muscles would get used to this and not see a reason to grow.

Therefore, it's important to increase training volume every few weeks. This can be done by

  • Lifting heavier weights

  • Adding more reps

  • Adding an extra set​

Increasing training volume is called "progressive overload" and is one of the key factors for building muscle.

​Let's take an example:

In your training programme it might say to do 3 sets of 10 reps with 20kg. This feels heavy and you're struggling to complete the last couple sets. The day after your workout you feel quite sore.

You repeat this workout the following weeks, and notice yourself get less and less sore after your workouts. You can also now complete all 10 reps with no struggle. This is because your muscles have built themselves up to handle the load.

You now decide to increase your training volume by adding more weight, and lifting 30kg instead of 20kg. Now it feels like a struggle again and you feel sore again the day after. After a few weeks with this workout you decide to increase the training volume by adding an extra set. You are now doing 4 sets of 10 reps with 30kg.

8 Ways to Improve Your Strength Workouts in the Gym

Here are 8 incredibly effective ways to spice up your strength workouts at the gym and apply progressive overload, if you feel like you have hit a plateau in your progress.

#1 Complete regular strength tests

Sometimes we don't know how strong we are until we actually test it out properly. You might realise you are stronger than you think which will then prompt you to lift heavier and spice up your usual workouts.

Strength tests are great because they

  • Teach you what it feels like to push yourself to the limit

  • Teach you how strong you actually are, and we are often stronger than we think

  • Motivate you, because you can see an actual improvement from time to time.

I recommend doing a strength test every 8-10 weeks. If you're signed up for the trainn app you will get automatic reminders for when it's time to complete a strength test, or you can navigate to the explore tab to access all the different fitness tests available. If you're working with a personal trainer, he or she should remind you of this.

Example of strength tests:

  • Test how heavy you can lift of a certain exercise for e.g. 6 reps

  • Test how many reps you can complete of an exercise with a certain weight

  • Test how many reps on an exercise you can complete in 2 minutes (with or without breaks)

#2 Maintain a log or follow a training plan

Random workouts = random results.

Writing down your workouts and following a specific training plan will without a doubt make it easier for you to increase training volume over time. You have all your exercises, sets, reps and weight written down, so you can easily increase these over time. Keep note of your best lifts and constantly strive to improve those numbers

The benefit of following a structured workout is that you'll know exactly what you're doing for each workout so you avoid having to make it up on the spot or "do what I feel like in the moment" (which - don't get me wrong - is absolutely fine for some people).

#3 Increase reps or weight

Like mentioned above, progressive overload is key when it comes to continuously seeing results in your workouts. The aim is to increase reps or weight every few weeks. Pick a couple exercises where you test out a few more reps or

Let's take an example:

Last week you did 3 sets of 10 reps squats with 20kg.

10x 20kg

10x 20kg

10x 20kg

Today you try 25kg for the first 2 sets and then you lower the weight back down to 20kg, but you can do more reps

10x 25kg

10x 25kg

12x 20kg

You have now increased your training volume. Write this down, so you can try all 3 sets 25kg next week.

#4 Add resistance bands

If you have a more physique-based goal and you want to build your muscles, adding resistance bands will do you wonders! Why? Because it activates all of your small stabiliser muscles, and it ensures constant tension on the muscle (and therefore activation).

You can add a small resistance band around your leg for lower body exercises, or loop a long resistance band around dumbbells to create tension and make it harder to push/pull them. Trust me, you'll feel the burn after 😄

tips to improve strength workouts

#5 Do your compound exercises first

Compound exercises are amazingly effective because they work the biggest muscles in your body and they work several muscle groups at once - compared to an isolating exercise that only works one muscle at a time. This means we are a lot stronger in compound exercises and they are also the exercises we see the most progress in.

Make sure to place your compound exercises in the beginning of your workout where you'll have more energy. Aim for your workouts to include 2-4 compound exercises.

Lower body compound exercises:

Squats, Deadlifts, Lunges, Split Squats

Upper body compound exercises:

Bench press, Pushups, Pull ups, Bent over row

#6 Do your weakest exercise first

It's no secret that we have the most amount of energy in the beginning of our workout. If you have an exercise you struggle to see progress in, try placing it in the beginning of all your workouts and notice the difference that makes.

#7 Swap dumbbells for barbells

Dumbbells are amazing because they require balance and stabilisation. They also ensure it's not always your strongest arm or leg doing all the work, but both are working equally.

Barbells, on the other hand, are amazing because it's easier to put more weight on the bar and therefore lift a greater load.

Almost all dumbbell exercises can be replaced with a barbell. Try making the swap and see if this means you can lift a bit heavier.

#8 Change your workout split

A workout split is how you divide up your workouts throughout the week by bodypart. The most optimal way to build muscle is to target each muscle group 2-3 times per week, so the workout split you do depends on how frequently you train.

Try changing your workout split so instead of doing full body workouts, you are doing more bodypart specific workouts. This allows for greater focus on a specific muscle group and can therefore increase the training volume on that particular muscle. It will challenge your body in new ways.

Let's take an example:

If you are currently working out 3 times per week, it might look like this:

Day 1: Full body

Day 2: Full body

Day 3: Full body

Instead, try changing it to:

Day 1: Lower body

Day 2: Upper body

Day 3: Full body


Try some of the tips mentioned above to spice up your workouts and improve your workouts. As a personal trainer, these are tips I frequently make use of with my clients.

If you want to keep seeing progress in your strength workouts, a good training plan with progressive overload will definitely help you. Remember, you don't have to make changes every single week, but as long as you do it over time, you'll never plateau again.

The good news is, that I can help take care of all of that for you. When you sign up for Online Coaching I will create your very own personalised training plan that changes with you as you get stronger and includes all the methods mentioned above. Sign up today and take the guesswork out of your training, so you can show up and get your workouts done with the confidence of knowing you're doing the right thing. Reach new limits.

Click below to join.


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Online Personal Trainer Sarah Louise Vegan

Hi, I'm Sarah Louise 👋🏼


I'm a personal trainer & help ordinary people build extraordinary bodies without sacrificing their lifestyle.

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