In the pursuit of more strength and larger muscles we can sometimes become so wrapped up in the intoxicating effect of seeing more and more weight on a bar or a dumbbell (or even a bodyweight exercise with rep count) climbing higher and higher that the form of the exercise and the very purpose of it (the muscles worked and the connective tissue strengthened) can become lost on the road, or worse, discarded in favor of chasing the next personal record.
I want to clear the air right quick and just come right out and say it: The benefit of lifting a lighter weight to perfect form is leaps and bounds healthier and more effective at building strength and size than improperly or sloppily lifting a weight even 5#’s heavier.
With that in mind, I want to further hit home with the point that there is a REASON why you cannot maintain form at a given weight vs. another weight.
- Your connective tissue is not yet strong enough or resilient enough to bare the load.
- The specific muscles used for the lift are not strong enough to execute the full range of motion.
Now imagine if you put a 230# individual on that same rope … Why? Dear sweet Jesus, WHY!? Not only is it a recipe for disaster, that individual would be in danger of becoming a smear on the bottom of a canyon.
Picture your muscles and joints as the jumper, and your connective tissue as the cord. Your connective tissue increases its strength as you work it harder, keeping perfect pace with the strength of your muscles, because biologically, that makes sense. Why would you apply a load or weight to your connective tissue that it was not measured for or tested against? Like the jumper in our metaphor, that is a disaster waiting to happen. Sure, your muscles may not become a smear, but they can tear!
As much as we’d like to think we are indestructible, our vessels are actually quite squishy and ripe for injury if we work hard and not smart.
So here’s the technique to practice to keep your connective tissue from becoming a failed bungee cord.
Every few months, or weeks depending on your training frequency, strip all the weight off the bar, or start with the lightest dumbbells. Perform your given exercise with pristine form, and then slowly (did I mention slowly?) build the weight back up, focusing solely on bringing each lift to perfect form. Use the 12 – 16 rep rule so you aren’t doing a hundred repetitions at the lighter weights.
Now, understand, that your first session doing this, your muscles will fatigue before you reach the maximum weight you can carry to perfect form.
THIS IS GOOD.
It will give your system and muscles a shock to reintroduce growth, especially if you have been plateauing for a while.
The next session you go to perform the same lift, pick up right where you left off. Do this as many times as you need to to get back up to the weights where your form finally starts to fail because it is too heavy rather than muscle fatigue.
Now you have a good range (and a healthy range) to work in again. Not to mention, the building work you did leading up to that will also help your brain cement the form with your muscles so you’ll be less likely to lift incorrectly (or at least, you will FEEL the difference when the lift is performed incorrectly) and your muscles will have grown a bit from the greater amount of pristine stress you have put on them during your building.
To wrap all this up, I leave you with these words.
“It is not always about the destination. Sometimes, it is about the journey.”
If you start rushing off trying to crush PRs constantly, you may miss out on key elements along the way.
Integrity, appreciation of hard work, strength of connective tissue etc.
Not to mention, you’ll wind up injuring yourself a lot less, allowing you to stay in the game longer and make yourself better!
Keep working hard friends!