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Weight Training Form

Do you really need perfect form for weight lifting?

Were you ever just working out and then notice someone giving another lifter some advice that sounded something like, "stop swinging your torso" or "don't cheat and arch your back like that!". Why is swinging your body and arching your back wrong? Because it doesn't follow some ideal on how you're suppose lift the weight? The only time excessive cheating is wrong is when you put yourself at risk for an injury.

Two things happen when you break form or "cheat". One is that you use other assisting muscles to lift the load and thereby taking stress off the target muscle. Two is that you create momentum and strain in areas that could cause an injury to occur. Let's take for instance a set of barbell curls. You lift the weight and after 6 or 7 reps, without swinging your body or arching your back, you feel you cannot perform another. So, on the next rep you swing your torso just a bit to get the weight up. In doing this you add more stress to your biceps because you have not ended the set from not being able to perform another perfect rep. You've cheated but it has added more stress to the target muscle than it would have otherwise received. The target muscle did not receive all 100% of the stimulation from these cheat reps because your swinging the bar up displaced some of the stress to other muscles. Does this matter? Not one bit. Because you have already hit the threshold where another perfect rep could be performed.

In a perfect world; perfect reps stress the target muscle 100%, cheat reps stress the muscle maybe 70-80% but this is an "incremental" stress where the muscle would have failed if you didn't perform these reps. We recommend to begin each set with strict reps trying to feel the target muscle work on each rep. When you can't perform another strict rep, then slightly start to use some body "english" to get the bar up and finish your set. Only experience will teach you when you're starting to cheat so much that it puts you at injury. The rule of thumb is usually 3 cheat reps for any set.

Remember that we are trying to build larger muscles and not win a "technique" contest unless you decide to go into powerlifting, technique becomes less important than stimulating and feeling the muscle contract.

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