Every lifter’s been there at some point: the increment between weights for your dumbbells, barbell or cable stack is too big, leaving you with an unpleasant choice. Just like in the story of Goldilocks and the three bears, you can either go too light or too heavy. What you really need to make the workout just right is to add weights.

But you need those weights to be smaller than what’s usually on offer in a gym.

This problem presents itself in a few different ways. You may find you’re simply incapable of going up to the next highest option, which frequently happens to women on upper body work.

For example, you can easily do bicep curls with the 15-pound dumbbells, but 20 pounds is just too much. Or you can bench 50 kg at RPE 9, but 52.5 won’t budge.

Or, you may be working with a program that uses percentages, and the weight programmed falls in between the available options.

Yes, you could just do more reps at a lower weight instead of going up in weight. Yes, you could round up or down on your percentages. Both solutions often work well.

Still, sometimes you really want to increase the weight, not the volume. And sometimes you want to be precise about your percentages.

But how can you add weight to dumbbells or kettlebells? Or add weight to a barbell that’s smaller (say, a pound or a kilo) than the minimum five pounds/2.5 kg possible using the smallest standard plates?