Q: I have seen this question asked of many coaches before, but I would like to hear your take. What do you say about some of the most massive bodybuilders in the world—like Ronnie Coleman, Jay Cutler, Branch Warren and Johnnie Jackson—who use very loose form in their workouts? One of the golden rules of training is supposedly “keep form strict to target the working muscle,” right?
A: A couple of points: First, just look at them! Can you argue with their results? That said, you have to factor in their superior genetics and the supplemental “enhancements” involved.
So, the question then becomes, “Would they look even more impressive if they trained more strictly?” I’m really not sure. One of the greatest keys to success when it comes to bodybuilding is having complete and utter faith in your own approach. If you believe your method is best and have no doubt it will lead to the desired results, you are more than one step ahead of the game—and the men you mentioned have said in interviews that they could not imagine training any other way.
They all feel that if they tried to train strictly and slowly, rather than in their more ballistic style, they would not be nearly as muscular. From a mental standpoint that might be true—as I mentioned, it is their faith that is partially responsible for their results. If, however, they had been mentored early on by someone who taught them to train ultra-strictly and that is what they did and believed in, they might have grown just as massive, perhaps even more so.
Another point: Ronnie and Branch in particular have suffered some rather severe injuries in their careers, which may have held them back to some degree. Was their loose style of training to blame?
I can go on and on about this subject without being able to give you a truly confident answer, but for your purposes I will say this: I feel that the best method of training for the majority is to use perfect form and technique, and focus totally on using only the target muscle. Cheating should be reserved for getting a couple of extra reps (or, specifically, vital eccentric contractions) after you can no longer complete the range of motion in strict form. That is what I do myself, what I teach and what I believe in.
Editor’s note: Eric Broser’s new DVD “Power/Rep Range/Shock Max-Mass Training System” is available at Home-Gym.com. His e-books, Power/Rep Range/Shock Workout and The FD/FS Mass-Shock Workout, which include complete printable workout templates and Q&A sections, are available at X-Workouts.com.