You always hear about "form" when discussing how to correctly perform an exercise. "You must use strict form" , "form is everything", "no cheating". I believe this to be wrong, wrong, wrong! Strict form limits muscle overload. Using strict form doesn't allow you to handle the kind of weight it takes to grow.
Strict form limits muscle growth and strength development! Strict form is responsible for more injuries than just about any type of training. Controlled cheating reduces the chance of injury while promoting maximum muscle growth.
Now I suppose I must clarify a few points here before everyone starts throwing weights all around the gym. The name of the game is "controlled cheating." the idea is to learn to use cheating constructively to aid in building muscle faster. It doesn't mean you cheat as much as it takes to complete a rep or lift a certain weight. There is a fine line here. You must learn to incorporate cheating into your training where the overall effect is increased overload on the muscle.
Controlled cheating allows for the extra bit of overload necessary to spawn continual muscle growth. Adhering to strict form prevents you from using the required overload for maximum fiber stimulation. Sure you can get a decent workout with picture-perfect form, but a decent workout is not what I'm talking about. It's not an all out muscle-building workout.
Let me illustrate an example here. Okay, biceps. For some reason everyone seems to want to isolate their biceps with exercises that prevent cheating. Preacher curls, concentration curls, incline dumbbell curls. Why? They think that from the direct feel of the movement that they are stimulating the muscle to a higher degree. Why do they feel like this? The reasoning is simple but I believe them to be wrong.
- The burn they get is more intense.
- They exhaust the muscle quicker.
- The biceps just hurt more.
- The muscles get pumped quicker.
Makes sense, eh?
The reasons for doing isolation exercises like this are exactly what you shouldn't be looking for as a sensory feedback for muscle growth. Now here are my list of rebuttals for the four previously mentioned reasons.
- The burn you feel while you train has nothing to do with muscle fiber overload stimulation. It's lactic acid. Lactic acid is counter productive to muscle growth.
- Exhausting quicker is a poor indicator of overload and a better indicator of fatigue. Fatigue does not build muscle!
- The muscle hurting during and right after an exercise is also not an indicator of overload. It's an indicator of the beginning stages of free radical damage to the muscle tissue as a result of excessive lactic acid accumulation. Not good!
- Muscle pump is an infusion of blood to the muscle and not maximum muscle fiber overload stimulation. The pump you feel while training, though good to a degree, really doesn't mean anything in relation to a successful set. By successful, I mean growth stimulating.
As I said earlier, controlled cheating will actually reduce the amount of injuries you experience during training. Strict form with heavy weight places tremendous strain on joints, tendons, connective tissue, and muscle attachments. These are the major areas where lifters experience debilitating injuries. When you're injured, you can't train effectively. When you can't train or train with all out intensity, you can't grow optimally.
By incorporating controlled cheating you are able to create greater muscle overload stimulation and do so while reducing your susceptibility to injuries. You eliminate the pinpointed stress to the critical injury prone areas. This is the only logical approach to effective training where maximum growth in minimum time is desired.
Incorporate Cheating To These Exercises For Maximum Growth
Now that I've convinced you that controlled cheating is good, here is a brief review of a few exercises and how I incorporate controlled cheating when performing them.
On a straight bar, get a grip just a bit wider than your shoulders. Lean forward slightly, rock back to an upright position to get the weight moving.
At the top, let the weight down in complete control but don't try to fight every inch of the way down. This technique allows you to use more weight for greater overload and faster muscle growth.
Cable Triceps Press Downs
Grip the bar slightly narrower than shoulder width, lean forward. Starting at the bottom of the movement, bring the bar up in a natural arch to slightly above or equal to shoulder height while leaning slightly forward. Once at the top, drive the bar down forcefully.
This technique allows much heavier weight to be used and takes considerable stress off of the elbows.
Seated or standing you are able to employ controlled cheating here very effectively. With dumbbells, position the weight at your shoulders. Hunch forward slightly, straighten up as you begin to press the weight. This drives the weight off the shoulders allowing for heavier weight to be used.
While standing you can cheat slightly with your legs. Never excessively arch your lower back while doing this movement as it puts your lower spine in a very injury prone position.
Just no way to cheat here. Suck it up and do them right! Sorry guys.
Bent Over Rows
Grip the bar about 6 inches wider than your shoulders on each side with palms either pronated or supinated. Make sure your back remains slightly arched when in the bent over position. Don't hunch or round your back. Pull the weight up forcefully to the bottom of your sternum.
Don't let the weight fall back down. Keep it in control but not too slowly.
You can use your knees to get the weight moving at the start of the movement. This is real important on the latter reps where real fiber stimulation takes place.
These are just a few examples of how to cheat on some basic exercises for your advantage. You need to experiment and learn to employ this technique into virtually all the movements you do especially if you're beyond beginning level weight training.
Implementing controlled cheating into your training will kick-start you past those sticking points and plateaus. You'll start to grow again and have a new outlook on your training as your weights increase and you start packing on the muscle. Until next time train hard, train smart, think BIG!