One Slow And Perfect Repetition At A Time…

 “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…?

12 responses

  1. This is such perfect information for me! I confess to sometimes getting lazy when I do strength training. I tend to do it because I know I should, but one of my goals for this year is to enjoy it more.

    This article will stay in my mind and I will take your advice to heart!!

  2. Can you redo that video shirtless?? 🙂

    Seriously, so friggin true!!! People always think I lift heavier than I really do. I tell them if you do it right & with proper form, you don’t have to lift so heavy. Plus the risk of injury when doing it wrong.. NOT GOOD!

    No wonder you look awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Great post Roy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. I really appreciate this reminder to have good form with lifting, Roy! Sometimes I get too carried away with numbers and time, and forget the importance of slowing down and lifting the “roses.”

    I liked the video!

  4. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the video! You should do more of these. And it makes me wish I lived closer so I could have you train me. 🙂

    Love this line:

    “Moving weights perfectly, in a slow and controlled manner, will add value to your human experience.”

    And to answer your first question, YES it has me rethinking how I’m lifting. So, are you saying that if I can lift with perfect form at a particular weight that I shouldn’t ever want to increase the weight, just reps? Is that how you got arms like that? Wholly hell!!!

  5. Diane: Rather than doing it because you “know it’s good for you”, you should do it because you KNOW it’s good for you. Not a subtle difference at all — attitude is everything 🙂

    Jody: I knew I was preaching to another preacher on this one. We will just have to agree to keep agreeing!!

    Dr. J: You keep throwing band names at me. “Lifting The Roses” might get the nod some day.

    Bobbie: Well I think Dean has you covered pretty well in the training dept. I have seen your workout videos, and though I might slow things down a tad, I LOVE your intensity!

    Katie: Link away!! Oh, and the next rainy day, you might consider curling up with a laptop and reading my entire archives. 🙂

  6. I really liked the video! Keep ’em coming!

    When I lift weights I have ALWAYS tried to lift heavier and heavier as the weeks pass. I have found that I am bit burnt out on weight lifting, I have been finding it exhausting lately. But then I worry that if I’m not constantly pushing myself to my limits, will I still see improvements? I am tired just thinking about lifting weights right now. I think I would like to try your approach. Because when I do cardio, I always feel great after, but when I lift weights I feel dead tired for two days, which makes it rather hard to function normally in my day to day life!!! So I think I will try to slow it down a bit, and focus on form rather than lifting as heavy as I possibly can.

  7. Carla: I subscribe to the belief that strength training should actually create more of a good feel in your mind than a bad feel. That is, done correctly, and I have years worth of clients to corroborate this, lifting weights is actually enjoyable. I have to fight some times, just to take a vacation — they don’t like missing training sessions. If you’re not “feelin’ it”, lighten up the weights and seek out the joy. I promise you it’s in there!

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