The other day i was chatting to some guy in my local gym after a workout, and as usual the conversation eventually got down to comparing poundages. Now i’m average height at about 185lbs so i have a fair amount of muscle on me, but i’m not “huge” by any stretch of the imagination. But still, this guy was so skinny i honestly think i ate more meat for lunch than he had on his entire body. I’m telling you this because when we finally did get down to comparing poundages, despite his difficulty staying on the floor in a heavy wind, he claimed to be lifting a good 20lbs more than me on almost every exercise – at least!
This isn’t the first time this has happened, so i kept cool and smiled and nodded. I dunno whether they put something in the water in Cardiff but apparently we’re a city of elite powerlifters. The mystery was solved a few days later, as it always is, when i saw this guy actually working out. If you’ve been going to a gym for a few years, this story will be old news to you.
When i arrived he was on the bench press. No surprises there, it was Monday Chestday after all. He had about 100kg racked (thats 220lbs for you yanks), and i immediately remembered our conversation and decided to do my warmup downstairs for a change. Sure enough, with an almighty grunt he unracked the barbell and with trembling arms proceeded to do six reps and not one of them had a range of motion of over 4″. At this point, his spotter grabbed the bar and together they performed for me the finest display of synchronized bench pressing/upright rowing i have ever seen, ending up with a grand total of 12 reps for the set and leaving them both out of breath (“it’s all you, bro!!!”).
Later, after a good session of floor presses and hang cleans i decided to call it a day and wandered upstairs for a cooldown. Lo and behold, there they were again – on curls this time! Well, at least i thought they were curls, in actual fact they looked more like the hang cleans i’d been doing a little earlier, but whatever. This peculiar bastard son of curls and cleans went something like this: start off like a curl, bend forward like a romanian deadlift while flexing the elbows, drive the hips forward, curl the bar up to 90 degrees, lean back and shrug the shoulders while bringing the bar to rest on the chest. Repeat. Oh and if you get tired, get your spotter to help you.
When i finally changed and left, they were doing something loud with cables and a lot of flailing about, but at this point i didn’t care enough to look. I’d seen it all before.
If you learn nothing else about training in your life, remember this: cheating will get you nowhere.
If you use momentum or “body english” – you aren’t lifting the weight, you’re throwing it. For most of the set your muscle isn’t contracting against any sort of resistance, and its a difficult muscular contraction that provides the stimulus for growth!
When you decrease the range of motion so you can lift more weight, the exercise ceases to be the one you’re meant to be doing. The number of muscle fibres being recruited in such a tiny movement is just that – tiny. And thats exactly how much muscle you’ll put on.
By all means use a spotter for safety reasons or piece of mind, but thats literally their only job. 95% of the time all they should be doing is standing there watching you and questioning your sexual preference. 4% of the time they should be lightly helping you through that final rep. The last 1% is the very few times you completely fail and they take the weight to save your ass. If your spotter is breaking a sweat, you aren’t lifting the weight – they are.
If you want to make gains and stay injury free, leave your ego at the door and start working hard. Learn proper strict form with a full range of motion on every exercise, and do the work yourself. This stuff is so basic it shouldn’t need an article but its a sad fact that too many people these days seem to care more about looking strong than actually being strong.
Do it right, and get results.
getlifting.info » Cheating