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Let Go, My Ego

Training a muscle vs. lifting a weight

Recently I began training one of my older brothers. Although he’s 39 years old, he still has a problem letting go of the teenage attitude toward weight training. Of course, he’s not alone. Almost every gym has men of all ages who prefer boosting their egos by lifting the heaviest weight possible by any means necessary rather than contracting a muscle over its full range of motion properly. Things came to a head a few weeks back when I refused to let him use more than 135 pounds on the bench press because he tended to use bad form with anything beyond that weight. A slightly built lad of 15 or 16 was on the bench next to us, ‘lifting’ 225 pounds. I added the quotation marks because:

a) He had a spotter lifting half the weight for him.

b) He was bridging his torso upward in a bow and bouncing the bar off his bony chest, making the range of motion about two inches.

c) Though I didn’t have an MRI machine handy, I’d bet you a year’s supply of RecoverX that his chest was barely involved in the exercise.

No doubt many of you have been in the same position. There you are, curling 100 pounds in perfect form, attempting to deeply stimulate all the targeted muscle fibers, while some muttonhead a few feet away is blasting up 150 in what looks like a seizure. You know you’re in the right, yet you still worry that you look like a wimp with your weenie weight. Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re feeling self-conscious:

The proof is in the pudding. Danny Hester said that once in response to people criticizing his eclectic training style, and it’s absolutely true. When you fret that others around you are slinging much heavier weights, look at their development. In most cases, it’s nothing to write home about. If you train your muscles correctly and keep them under greater tension, your results are going to speak for themselves eventually. At that point you might even start to notice some of the guys with crappy form lightening up the loads and tightening up the form. Why? Because they’ll want to look like you!

Who’s gonna last? You can train with haphazard form for a while, especially when you’re young, without incurring too many serious injuries; however, as the years go by, the bad form with heavy weights will inevitably result in damage to the rotator cuffs, AC joints, knees, elbows and lower back. Not only does cheating rob you of the physique you could have, but it can and usually does end your lifting career. At the very least it will reduce the poundage you can use without pain to something the 110-pound aerobics instructor handles in her toning workout. By using strict form and not subjecting your joints and connective tissues to undue stress, you’re ensuring that you’ll be able to train at a high level for many years to come.

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