So I have been going to the gym for a decent while now (a couple of years) and have always noticed a problem that I may not have addressed ever and I might be going at the wrong way. I am aware that progressive overload is the proper way to build muscle (increase weight, then increase reps until you can do about 10, then increase the weight again and start over), but for some reason I haven't noticed any success. Here's what it looks like for me at the moment:
For example, this morning I trained biceps. I took 35lb dumbells and did a few different exercises that I normally do. But after the first couple of exercises (I did 8-10 reps of each for a few sets), I could not continue with the remaining exercises without failing after 4 or 5 reps. What's weird is I don't feel like I'm out of strength, it feels like my bicep literally does not want to contract at all. This causes me to end the workout by doing a couple more sets at a lower rep count than I want.
I have a couple of hypotheses' and I want to verify that my thinking is right. First off, I might just be getting tired nearing the end of my workout since I do cardio at the beginning (this is always the way I have done it). The main reason I do cardio near the beginning is that I am cutting right now and want to focus on building stamina as well. Should I be doing cardio after my weight training? How will this affect how much I can run? Another thought I have is my elbows. Yes, my elbows. Whenever I do anything upper body (mainly chest, but biceps and shoulders as well) my elbows crack and start getting uncomfortable. This causes me to sometimes end sets early (especially for bench press) and keeps me from being pushed to the max. Is there any way I can train that part of my arm to withstand more pressure? Or should I not worry and push through the discomfort? My wrists can also feel this same way when doing some exercises.
Finally, is the way I am thinking about progressive overload correct? Can it be explained to me in a way that would possibly fit my situation?