Many bodybuilders have deemed the quality of their form while doing an exercise to be the most important aspect of training. Some people training in the gym use the rationale that lifting heavy weight causes you to train less effectively. “I always use really strict form!” they state proudly. “Lifting heavy weight is not beneficial at all if you don’t use really strict form.”
Many bodybuilders are confused with what constitutes effective training habits. They feel as though they are forced to make the decision between executing properly and lifting heavy weight. You don’t need to go one way or the other.
To complicate matters further, those who strive for better execution confuse doing so with using strict form. They feel that, because they use strict form, they are properly executing the exercises. Strict form and proper execution are not the same things.
I would describe execution as squarely hitting the targeted muscle group during every repetition. Contrary to what many people in the gym believe, extremely strict form is not always an effective and efficient route to take when training. A person can use strict form and not be executing the exercise properly. In fact, overly strict form oftentimes inhibits your progress. You can compromise your level of exercise effectiveness when you put too high of a priority on strict form. I’ve come across a lot of guys in the gym who are frustrated with their lack of development—but will boast about how great they think their form is.
I’m certainly not saying you should train with careless, out-of-control form. Even worse, I’m not suggesting that you risk hurting yourself in order to lift heavy weight. Using form that is too sloppy won’t work the intended muscle sufficiently. If you get hurt while trying to lift too much weight you’ll set yourself back both in time and momentum. Doing that is unquestionably worse than lifting lighter weights.
There is a happy medium, however. That happy medium is performing each set at what I describe as a good value and proper execution. Lifting heavy enough weight to build significant muscle mass—while still using form that’s good enough to directly stimulate the intended muscle group.
Overloading the intended muscle group with heavy weight is one of the most important keys to effectively stimulating maximum muscle growth. Despite what many people believe, you don’t necessarily need to use strict form in order to stimulate the muscle. But, if you want to build the most muscle in the shortest period of time, you do need to use the heaviest amount of weight that you can lift at the same time that you are stimulating the muscle group.
You have to find the right balance between heavy, challenging, muscle-taxing weight and using exercise execution and technique that’s good enough to hit the targeted muscle group. This may take some time and practice—but you won’t find that right balance until you make it your goal to do so.
Skip La Cour