I see it every day in the gym and it really frustrates me. People training with weights that are obviously too heavy for them and in order to move the heavy weight most people tend to use a swinging motion. So we've got heavy weights swinging up and down basically relying on momentum to get from the bottom to the top of each rep. Is this the best way to build muscle? Most certainly not.
The aim of this article is to get the message out to everyone that is weight training and trying to build muscle that quality is better that quantity! This is one of my favorite muscle building catch phrases! It's not how much weight you're lifting but how you're lifting it. Remember why you started going to the gym in the first place - to build muscle, not lift the heaviest weights possible!
So many guys people get caught up in the ego boosting subliminal weight lifting competitions that go on in the gym every day. When you enter the gym it's important to drop your ego for a hour and train for yourself. Focus on your form and muscle contractions instead of worrying about what everyone else is doing.
To get the maximum effect out of each exercise while you're training you must use strict and correct form. Many people in their quest for heavier weights slowly left their form go. And unfortunately some people just don't get the correct training and knowledge when they begin weight training and never get their form correct. You need to concentrate on correct form in every rep of every set. If you can't keep strict form for at least 8 out of 10 reps you really need to drop the weight down a bit.
I've put together some tips for getting the most out of your workouts. My tips focus on how you're doing the exercises, not how much weight your lifting. If you're not using correct form in your workouts read these tips before you hit the gym:
1. Leave Your Ego At The Door
It's important that when you step into the gym your ego stays at the door. While you're in the gym focus on why you're there, don't compete with other people. Instead of trying to punch out more weight than the next guy focus on beating your own PR's (personal records). If you look at the big picture, you will gain more strength and be able to move more weight by doing the exercises with strict form. So in the long run you will be shifting much heavier weights and will also be much stronger.
2. Long Range of Motion
Yes you can benefit from cheat reps, short reps etc but these techniques should only be used to shock the muscles (ie occasionally). You will get the maximum benefit out of any muscle building exercise by using the longest range of motion possible. This means bicep curls should start from your quads and go all the way up until your hands touch your front delts, pull ups should start and finish with your arms fully extended and dumbbell bench presses will go down as much as you can.
3. Slow Down
One of the most common types of bad form is executing exercises too fast. The bench press is a prime example. I have seen many people literally let the bar drop straight down, then absorb the pressure at the bottom of the exercise, and then push back up. A bench done this way hardly works the pectoral muscle at all! The tendons around the shoulder area do most of the work. Not only that, the negative phase of the bench can give your pectorals just as much workout as the positive phase so you're losing 50% of the workout right there. Muscle building exercises are meant to be executed slowly and if you do them too fast or use momentum to move weights you rob yourself of the maximum workout and could do yourself a serious injury.
4. Focus on Muscle Contraction at The Peak of The Rep
Every exercise has a specific target muscle. Curls hit biceps, extensions hit triceps, bench hits pectorals etc. You need to focus on maximum contraction of the target muscles at the top of the exercise. Look at your biceps when you're doing curls and squeeze the muscle as hard as possible at the top of the rep. Look at it this way, you want to keep as much blood in the muscle as possible and the harder you contract that muscle the more blood is going to draw in and harder your pump is going to be. Really isolate those target muscles and make sure they're doing 100% of the work required to move the weight.
5. Get Someone to Watch You Workout
Over time all of us will develop small bad habits. Which are fine, but if left alone may form into problems in the future. One of the best ways you can tell if you're using correct form is get someone else to watch you punch out some reps. For those of you who have training partners use them, and for those of you that don't you may want to get the opinion of a personal trainer or bodybuilder in your gym.
6. Eat Well & Eat Often
Diet is often overlooked by many people trying to build muscle. But the fact is, that your diet is your key to success. You can train 5 days a week with perfect form but if you do not have the calories and protein in your diet to back it up, you're not going to build any muscle. You need to get away from the "3 meals a day" mentality and start trying to eat at least 5 smaller meals per day. Think about it like this. You need to eat what your body can use, not how much can fit in your stomach. Eating more meals increases your metabolism and keeps your body's nutrients fully topped up throughout the day. For building muscle you need to eat excess calories and around 1.5-2 grams of protein for every pound of body weight. Make sure you have an after workout meal or shake that's high in protein and carbs, this is when your body needs the nutrients the most.
Just to wrap things up, here's some key points of this article that you should remember:
- Remember why you're in the gym, to build your muscles not to move heavy weights
- Leave your ego at the door and train for yourself
- Keep you range of motion as log as possible
- Slow down and control the weight with your target muscles
- Focus on maximum muscle contraction and "pump" at the top of the rep
- No ones form is perfect, get someone to help you
- Diet is the key to your success
This article is by no means a muscle building bible. It's just some helpful information for beginners to help them reach their goals.