We observe this phenomenon when viewing the training of successful lifters, especially in the realm of bodybuilding, powerlifting and strongman. A curious trend of these individuals is that they do not use “good form” when training. Many reps are partially completed, use momentum, “cheat”, etc. When observed by a beginner, it results in cognitive dissonance, leading to an outcry, usually in the form of youtube comments.
When your only tool is a hammer
These comments usually go in several predictable directions. These guys can get away with this because of steroids. If it isn’t steroids, it’s because of genetics. If it isn’t genetics, it’s because of their training environment/team. Or it’s because they can train 5 times a week for 3 hours a day. The list goes on and on.
Really, when you look at successful people and they aren’t doing what you’re doing, maybe instead of critiquing them it’s time to wonder if maybe it’s me. Rarely does it cross one’s mind that, it’s not that these guys are succeeding in spite of their training, but because of their training.
Wait...what did you say?
In a similar fashion as my “training versus competition” article, we are entering a realm of technique versus form. Form is simply the mechanical traveling from A to B with a weight using a specific path. It, in and of itself, does not dictate success. Technique is the means in which we accomplish this movement. As a result, one can have perfect form and terrible technique, due to the fact that, though they may get the weight from A to B, they do not recruit the muscles they desired to get there. This is why kids can spend years hammering curls and only end up developing their anterior deltoid and forearm, because they don’t know how to contract their bicep to move the weight.
To get back to the main theme of this article, you will note that unsuccessful trainees tend to have or strive for “perfect form” when they train. The weight always travels from start to lockout in a straight line with no deviation. Successful trainees tend to only lift like this in competition, or if they are training for competition. Why is this?
I can offer a few thoughts based on my experiences. As I have mentioned in many random thought pieces, not locking out a weight is a surefire way to increase time under tension, which in turn leads to greater hypertrophy compared to locking out at the top or bottom of the lift. Additionally, by altering technique, one is able to place specific emphasis on weak points/lagging muscles. If you only do the first portion of the bench, you will be able to build strength off the chest for the bench itself. If that is where you are weak, it is a boon, and if you have a small chest, it will blow it up way better than fully locking reps each and every time.
Much like I have said in many other posts before, the point here is goals and doing what it takes to reach them. Everything you do in training should have a purpose. If you are just benching for 3 sets of 10, you are accomplishing exercise for the sake of exercise. If you train your bench for the specific purpose of building a stronger chest by altering your technique, you will achieve that goal. Remember, if you aren’t doing what successful people are doing, maybe it’s you.