“Your cheatin’ heart will make you weep
You’ll cry and cry and try to sleep
but sleep won’t come the whole night through
Your cheatin’ heart will tell on you”
In his classic song, Your Cheating Heart, fitness trainer Hank Williams Sr. clearly had his finger on the pulse of modern gym culture. He cried out to all violators of poor exercise form to change their ways. He saw the risk of injury, of over stressing bones and joints, the potential to damage tendons, muscles, and ligaments, and tried to warn us all. Still, many don’t listen and continue to use weights which are too heavy, and cheat their exercise form in the name of (perceived) progress.
Consider the lack of connectivity between these two terms; cheating, and progress. Where else in life do we connect these two terms and expect a positive result? Congress notwithstanding.
Cheating an exercise might (arguably) be necessary for competitive athletes to induce maximum growth in muscular size and strength, that they gain an extra edge over the competition. Cheating applied to the workout of an every-day fitness enthusiast is a risk taken, with nothing to be gained.
Knowledge And Fidelity
It’s said that it is better to aim for success, and not for perfection. Since real perfection can never be reached, striving for it would be time and energy squandered. I suggest that in functional strength training for general fitness, perfection should be pursued, and actually can be achieved. The perfect singular repetition of a strength exercise is simply a choice; the choice to raise and lower a weight properly. If one makes even a reasonable study of what proper form is, one can simply do it properly and repeat – perfection had.
Performance By Roy; A Brief Seminar On, Momentum-Free, Execution of Strength Movements
1) No weight selected on a machine, barbell, or dumbbell ever be so heavy that perfect form could be not be obtained for 8-10 repetitions. Your body will not know how heavy a weight is, it will only know how heavy it feels through the course of the exercise.
2) Concentric: With weight in hands, or at the ends of your feet, begin a slow raising of the weights. This lifting phase of the exercise, when the weight, in whatever medium, is headed upward toward the ceiling, should take 3-4 seconds. Regardless of the exercise or apparatus, whenever a weight is rising toward the ceiling, one should exhale slowly through the mouth as the weight rises.
3) Pause: When the weight is at its highest point, that muscular contraction should be held a moment. Take an extra breath or two after each repetition. This increased oxygenation will allow the set to be sustained longer.
4) Eccentric: The weight is slowly returned to its starting position. This should take 5-6 seconds. One should breath in and out (naturally) while the weight is being lowered.
5) Pause: When the weight is at its lowest point, the extension should be held for a moment with the muscles involved fully stretched. Again, take an extra breath or two after each repetition to increase oxygenation.
Exercise should make your life better, not worse. Momentum (cheating) while performing strength movements increases the opportunity to become injured by taking stress away from the area(s) one is trying to effect, and placing it in areas which may not be prepared to receive that load. Tendons, muscles, ligaments, and joints which are not prepared to receive that extra strain, become more likely to give way to injury.
The Utility Of Control
Moving weights perfectly, in a slow and controlled manner, will add value to your human experience. Moving weights more slowly will make you stronger where it matters most; outside the gym in this ongoing challenge we call everyday life.
Practicing perfect form in the gym, lends itself to better lifting form outside the gym. Being able to control a weight both in the concentric and eccentric phase of an exercise is a life-skill whether one is carrying a bucket of laundry across a room, installing a ceiling fan, or staying bent down to tie a child’s shoe. Moving lighter weights more slowly is a different kind of strength; one you might actually need when you leave the gym.
The Limits Of Power
The human body will only get so strong. Better we master the weights we lift in everyday life; the weight of grocery bags, the dog, backpacks, suitcases, etc., than to focus on hoisting big numbers in the gym. I put a moratorium on myself years ago that I will not attempt to increase any of the poundages I use in my strength exercises. So long as I practice perfect form, and do so consistently, all the benefits of my strength training will remain, both in how I function and in how I look. Okay, so it’s a very garage video, but the camera don’t lie — you don’t have to cheat to succeed, nor do you have to lift successively heavier weights to benefit from your workouts. I should be more agressive with my success. Be well. rc
A) Will reading this change how you think about lifting weights, and how you lift them…?
B) Do you forgive me for my amateur video…?