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Most Common Mistakes - Lifting Too Heavy

Something I see every time I set foot in any gym, anywhere, is people lifting too heavy.

I have to stress that I believe in lifting heavy - there’s no downside to being stronger and, as long as you’re lifting properly (which is the point of this article), it’s safe to do so.

The problem I see is normally guys wanting to get bigger, piling on the plates and “moving” (not “lifting”) the weights by any means necessary - form goes out the window in favour of lifting an extra few kilos.

Ego takes over and what you tell your friends you can lift becomes more important than what will actually get you the best results.

If your target set/rep scheme is 3 sets of 10, you should be aiming to get within a rep or two of the last rep of the last set, and all with good technique.

One good set, followed by 8 good reps and a couple of dodgy reps in the second set, and in the final set, 5 good reps, 3 dodgy reps and 2 assisted [barely recognisable as] reps is NOT the way to progress.

If the rep isn’t a good rep, don’t count it (don’t do it!).

Forced reps and assisted reps etc aren’t really necessary for 90% of trainees, especially beginners.

If you can’t perform a rep with good technique then the weight is too heavy.

It’s fair to say that performing a lift with good technique is harder than performing it with bad technique (hence why you can squeeze a bit more weight out if you sacrifice technique), so by definition, you can work just as hard (if not harder) by performing good reps with a lower weight, without the added risk of injury.

You’re still lifting as much as you can and training to near failure - it’s just form failure, not absolute failure.

Training for pure strength (very low reps in the 1-3 range) STILL requires good technique.

You want to build up strength in the right areas - that means using the right muscles, in the right proportions, at the right time. That’s how you build up to lifting bigger weights with good form still.

Forcing a weight up with bad technique reinforces bad technique and your body learns this technique.

Also bear in mind that your body will remember the reps under the highest stress - so your top rep is the one that’ll be ingrained into your muscles - if you do that with poor form, your body will remember this.

If you do your top rep with good form, it will reinforce good technique, even at the higher weights, which will also mean you’ll progress faster up the weights rather than hit a sticking point where you can ONLY lift with bad technique beyond a certain weight.

Let’s also look at the injury risk - performing a squat or a deadlift with poor form, under great load puts massive stress on your joints and ligaments well beyond what a good rep would.

We’ve all seen the guys folding in half under a heavy squat or rounding like a hunchback to pull a heavy deadlift off the floor, and if you’re like me, you cringe, waiting to hear a “pop” and a scream.

There’s only so much you can get away with this before the inevitable happens, and then you’re out of action for weeks, months or even years! That’ll mess up your strength plans a tad more than taking a slightly slower approach will! Don’t be impatient!

This is true for every exercise. So pay attention to technique.

Remember, in terms of strength, you’re only competing with yourself - I realised a long time ago that no matter how hard I train, there are people who are just bigger than me, and people gifted with great genetics, there’s no point trying to compare yourself to an elite Crossfit athlete or a World’s Strongest Man competitor if you’re naturally smaller.

A 5’6” guy will never be able to get as big or strong as a 6’6” guy, so the actual numbers really aren’t comparable. At least work pound for pound if you’re going to compare yourself to others.

If your mate weighs 20kg more than you, chances are he’ll be lifting a decent amount more than you too - get over it!

The key to progress in the gym is lifting to YOUR capacity - that means good reps at your working weights.

As long as you do that, the weights will get progressively heavier. Jumping forward more than you should will only mean you’re stuck on that weight for longer, or you can only progress by keeping bad form, because technique will never catch up if you keep adding load before you can lift it properly.

For those of you trying to get bigger, it’s also not all about strength - so what you lift is less important than how you lift.

No-one [who knows what they’re talking about] gives a shit if you can bench 100kg or not.

What if you can bench 120kg, but someone who looks better than you do can only bench 90kg? Throws the idea that you have to go heavier out of the window.

Size and strength are linked but not as directly as people often think.

Building up to a 150kg bench does require a decent amount of muscle mass, but it doesn’t mean you’ll be bigger than someone who can only bench 120kg.

So get clear in your head what you’re training for.

If it’s pure strength, you still need to train with good technique. The only time you should be testing your absolute limit regardless of technique is in competition when you know the risks and are willing to take that chance, or maybe a very occasional test session.

If it’s size/physique you’re training for, it might be time to drop the ego, lower the weights and stop comparing what you can lift with other people, and focus on YOUR progress.

Whether you’re training for size or strength, please don’t lift too heavy! Technique over weight.

Consistency in training, good nutrition, and steady progression will always win out over adding weights too fast.

Remember your joints and ligaments too, it’s not just about muscle.

So train hard, but train smart.

“If you can’t lift it, don’t lift it”



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