Part 2 of 4 You’re not working the muscle, you're just moving a weight
Last time we looked at “Intensity”. How hard you’re working. In this instalment we are going to look at HOW you do your exercises. The absolute basic that most people mess up, but their ego won't allow them to do it differently.
Weight training isn’t just about moving a weight. I know, I know, how silly of us to think we're in the weights gym to... lift weights. However, lifting a weight isn't the purpose of the exercise. A weight, any weight, is just a tool (one of many we could use) so we can work a muscle through a range of motion so that muscle can be progressively overloaded more and more to cause muscle growth.
I’m still amazed at some of the ways people throw weights around in the gym. I’m hoping it’s because they have no idea, or because they have seen some “built” guy on YouTube throwing weights around. You know, like I said before, the guys who could do just about anything and put on size.
Let’s look at the biggest mistake people make when performing any kind of weight training exercise.
They swing the weight, using momentum to do most of the work. Like a big pendulum. That’s not working the muscle. That's swinging a weight.
Let’s use the example of a simple bicep curl with a bar. We all do them.
Guys will use their whole body to get the bar moving, then let momentum continue to carry the bar up. The bar goes as high as it can, then they let it drop, only slowing it down the last little bit before using their body again and the elastic band effect to bounce the weight back up again, and repeat. All the time going way too fast for the muscle to do its full job.
Breaking down what’s happening. They use the muscle to get the weight moving, but then the muscle stops doing anything and is just going along for the ride while momentum is what moves the weight up. Then on the way down the weight free falls until the muscle is used to stop it. At which point they use the muscle as a big elastic band to help repeat.
Guys, if a muscle isn’t working it isn’t going to be growing. Just because you’re going through the motions does not mean a muscle is working. Sure it may be feeling like it’s getting tired, but thats from being worked the wrong way. From too much weight and tiring a muscle in a very narrow window.
Oh, guys will always use more weight than they should. It’s an ego thing. If you want results in the weight room leave your ego in your locker.
Every single guy would say he knows how to lift weights or do a rep on a machine. I could record a video for "funniest home bloopers" with what I see at gyms. It's not about moving a weight. It's about contracting the muscle through it's whole range of motion.
This all comes from guys not learning the right way. Of course, ego again, they all think it’s about picking up a big weight.
The first step in changing this is to change your paradigm about lifting a weight. Don’t think about lifting a weight. You will naturally tend to start to use any muscles you can to lift it. If you can use your whole body you will. Technique and form are everything in getting the most out of every single rep.
Instead, think about contracting the muscle you’re supposed to be working. If it’s a bicep curl, stop thinking about the weight and start thinking about the muscle you’re contracting. The bicep. Focus on it contacting and doing the work. For the entire range of the rep.
Now, to give yourself time to focus on the muscle, take 2-3 seconds to lift a weight, pause at the top for a split second (don’t just drop the weight immediately back down), take 2-3 seconds to lower a weight, pause for a split second again. This ensures that you’re actually working all the muscle fibres though their entire range of motion. The way most people do exercises they are not working a muscle completely though it’s range of motion. Slow up. Slow down. Make the muscle do work all the way up and all the way down.
Note. You will have to use a lighter weight. Get over yourself. It’s about getting results not stroking your ego.
As another example, my other pet hate exercise for people, throwing weight around is a side lateral raise. You see people doing silly weights that the side deltoid has no way of lifting. But they swing away anyway, totally just using momentum. The deltoid gets burnt out not from doing a whole range of motion, but the initial effort to get the weight moving initially. Then it's just going through the motions.
Control is the key. Slow things down so you can control what muscle is working and how it’s working. A muscle that isn’t being worked through it’s full range of motion isn’t really doing much. And, STOP looking at the genetically gifted or drug taking guys as examples of how to train. Oh, they could get better gains if they did exercises properly too.
Slow the hell down when you’re doing those reps. Check your ego and drop the weight. Are you in the gym to get results or to stroke your ego. I know, I say that a lot. Don’t worry, if you’re in the gym lifting for your ego, any guy who knows what he’s doing will think you’re a wanka. Can tell by the weights people try and lift. Better go for results. Be proud of the results you achieve, not pumping your ego up because you think you're using big weights.
Slowdown and concentrate not on moving a weight, but contracting a muscle through the whole up part of the rep, then control it on the down part of the rep. Now, you're really working the muscle, not just moving a weight
Most people can get better results at the gym, just with a little fine tuning. It's sad when I see the people who should be weight training do it for a few months, not see any results, then quit. Or, go month after month, after month, only to never really change. Like anything, the devil, and results, are in the detail. Every single thing about weight training is deliberate and for a reason. Using control when doing reps is about the hardest thing to do deliberately, as it takes so much control of body and mind. However, it is crucial to maximising any results.
Next time. Part 3. It's not just about doing some "stuff", it's about a program