When you sign up to the gym and make the choice to dedicate yourself, you have to clearly define what your goals are.
Do you wish to be a power lifter ?
Do you wish to be a weight lifter ?
Do you wish to build a better looking physique ?
Although each of these goals may slightly overlap each other, they each have significantly different approaches.
A power lifter’s goal is to lift the most amount of weight. There is no considerable emphasis placed on hypertrophy (muscle growth) or symmetry. They are essential function over form. The training is based around lifting awesome amounts of weight. The training and the numbers behind this approach are definitely impressive. There is also alot of technique involved. The old saying is that in power lifting the only concern is making the lift without the red light coming on. This is not to say that no hypertrophy will be experienced in power lifting. There are some pretty big guys out there. However, in terms of symmetry and overall appearance… well that isn’t the focus so it shouldn’t be expected to be a strength. It is also necessary to re-think the idea of looking at the bigger power lifters and draw the conclusion that.. Power lifting created the Beast. The truth is, that genetically the beast was always a beast, and lifting heavy things was always a strength of this type of person. So therefore… The Beasts turn to Power lifting. Not to mention the use of performance enhancing drugs in some. This is not an attempt to discredit people, but when I think in terms of arguments I like to remove that variable from the equation.
A weight lifter is someone who just lifts weights. I know it sounds weird but, they are the lifter without a goal or purpose. These are people who go into the gym and lift all sorts of heavy weight in a haphazard manner and don’t have much to show for the “incredible” poundage they move. They typically rely heavily on momentum and cheat a whole lot. They are also the guys most typically slamming the weights, and not big weights like the power lifters, I am taking about the lat pulldown and smith machines. lol. They are unlike the power lifters because they have no objective. They claim they go to the gym to look good, but they never take the necessary steps to do so. The weight lifter is too worried and caught up with ego, and lifting heavy weight with terrible form so everyone can see. No focus on form or the negative. Very limited mind-muscle connection. Makes minimal progress if any. Injuries are more common due to dangerous techniques and form.
The category that I belong to and advocate is the physique builder. If you aren’t a power lifter, this is where I believe most people should be. The purpose of the gym and lifting is to improve upon the physique. The goals are centered around hypertrophy (muscle growth) and symmetry. The techniques aren’t centered on the moving the most amount of weight in the easiest fashion. In order to build upon the physique one must abandon the ego and focus on the muscles. Cheat reps have their place, yes; maybe on the last 2 reps of a heavy set. But when you are swinging and cheating right out of the gates, there is a problem. Your focus shouldn’t be doing whatever it takes to move the most amount of weight. Instead it should be to move the most amount of weight with proper form while efficiently working the target muscle(s). The key is focusing on feel. You want to engage the muscle and make it work. Take the momentum, the cheating, the tendons out of the equation and leave everything to the muscle. Use your mind to hone in on the target muscle and enhance the lifting experience.
For example when doing barbell curls that you KNOW are too heavy, and you are swinging and swaying all over the place, ask yourself these questions:
1. If I am trying to grow my biceps with this exercise, why am I using so much lowerback, shoulder, and legs in the movement ?
2. If I am trying to training my biceps, why am I using so much momentum ? Am I trying to test the laws of physics, or TRAIN my biceps?
Far too often I see people neglect the negative portion of the rep. They work so hard to explode upwards and then free fall on the negative. Doing this means that you are missing out on half of the rep and 50% of the work. While exploding upwards the muscle is engaged, as you free fall through the negative the muscles aren’t tight or working as hard. In addition, the sling shot motion in the opposite direction back to the positive portion can severely increase the risk of injury. Instead try exploding on the positive portion of the rep while controlling and fighting against the negative. I am not talking about all the crazy 4 second negative stuff. Just control it. Make sure your muscles are working on both ends of the movement. Create a rhythmic movement where the target muscle(s) is constantly engaged. Studies also show that more damage is done to the muscle on the negative portion. So imagine all the lost work by those who ignore the negative. Every rep, of every set, every exercise, every week, every month, of every year. It is sad to think about. Control the negative will bring out much more muscular development and density. The squeeze and tension is what creates that hard muscular look.
The name of the game is to train the muscles, not the ego. Focus on your form, concentrate on the target muscles, feel the negative, and develop a mind muscle connection. These are important components to physique development.
If you are falling more into the “weight lifter” category, and you aren’t happy being there, my advice is to scale back a little on the weights. Lower the weight for some time and really focus on form and feel. Sometime you have to take a few steps back in order to make great leaps forward. I have been doing this for quite a while now, and focusing on form and feel is the best thing I can recommend in terms of training. It will yield great results, and will also cut down on the chances of injury. At first this may be a little harsh on the ego, but always remember……
Do you want to be the “weight lifter” with an average physique haphazardly pressing the 100 lb. dumbbells
or the Physique Builder with a well balanced and developed physique pressing the 85 lb. dumbbells but looks like he can press the 140′s ?
So which are you ?
A power lifter ?
A weight lifter ?
A Physique Builder ?