The Right Lifting Technique For Gaining Muscle And Strength By Lee Hayward
I see this lifting mistake all the time.
It's an all too common a scene in gyms all over the
world - some guy is starting his chest workout on the
bench press with two or three 45 pound plates on each
side of the barbell. While his faithful spotter is
standing by preparing to deadlift the barbell off his
After pacing back and forth the gym and
getting "psyched up" the lifter plops down on the bench
and takes the weight off the rack. The bar drops towards
his body at a lightning fast speed. As the bar makes
impacts with his chest it bounces nearly half way back up
before any force is required to keep the momentum going.
Then with a huge grunt and an arch that lifts his ass
eight inches off the bench, the bar starts to inch its
way up. With the help of the spotter (who is yelling
"it's all you"), the weight barely gets pressed to lockout.
Then the lifter jumps up and shouts: "I did it!"
Just think of all the people that you have seen do this
at one time or another. Do they ever really improve their
strength? You will usually see them doing the same bench
press "circus act" with the same weight week after week.
Do these folks strike you as "strong" lifters?
Probably not. The strongest lifters you will see are those
who have complete control over the weight throughout the
exercise - be that bench presses, squats, shoulder presses,
or curls. This is not to say that these people are always
the ones lifting the biggest weights. I've seen some
guys that I consider to be strong, lifting moderate
weights, but doing it in a way that dictates strength.
The difference between these lifters and the previously mentioned lifters is made crystal clear as time passes on. Just keep track of the progress of the "strong" lifters who use good form and they will be the ones who make consistent long-term improvement with their lifts and muscular development. Where as the "circus act" lifters are usually doing the same thing week in and week out until they are side lined with a muscle tear or some other major injury.
Gains in muscle and strength don't come overnight. They
take consistent training and one cannot be consistent with
their training if they are injured. Improper form and fast
jerking of excessive weight will eventually lead to an
injury, it's just a matter of time.
...with a huge grunt and an arch that lifts
his ass eight inches off the bench...
this pic is an example of what NOT to do.
The reason why the good lifters make better gains in
strength and muscular development is found in their
lifting form. They control the weight during the
eccentric (lowering) portion as well as the concentric
(lifting) portion of the exercise. Muscle tension is at
its greatest during the eccentric contraction and
controlling the weight through this negative phase
has been shown to increase strength and development
at a faster rate then controlling it through the
concentric contractions alone. However, this emphasis
on the eccentric phase of the rep doesn't mean that the
concentric contraction should be ignored. Once the weight
is lowered to the bottom of the exercise in a controlled
manner, it should be lifted up with maximal speed.
Increasing the speed of the contraction leads to increased
power output and directly effects the intensity of the
When starting any new training routine or implementing a
different lifting technique you should always start off
conservatively and make gradual progress overtime. So if
this lifting form is new to you, then you may have to
adjust your training weights to somewhat less then normal
for a short period of time, until you become comfortable
with the form.
To show you the ideal form and repetition tempo I will use the bench press as an example. Starting with a warm up weight,
bring the bar down to your chest slowly. It should take
approx. 2 seconds (i.e. one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two)
once the bar is lowered, you should explode and forcefully
push the weight back up to the top position in approx.
1 second (i.e. one-thousand-one). Exhale as you drive
the bar from your chest with maximum speed. Even though
you are moving the weight fast there should be no bouncing,
jerking, or lifting your butt off the bench. Keep the form
strict and make the muscles do the work.
Now you don't have to be too anal about the times
mentioned, I'd rather you have your attention focused
on your lifting form then counting the seconds in
your head. Just make sure to lower the barbell slowly
and under control and lift it as fast as you can with
good form. Counting the 2 seconds for lowering and 1
second for lifting is something that a training partner
could keep track of as you do your set. After each set
they can give you feedback and let you know if you should
slow down the negative portion of the lift or speed up the
concentric portion, etc.
Use this lifting technique on every rep of every set, even
your warm ups. Don't make the mistake of using sloppy form
during your warm ups and then trying to lift strict during
your work sets. Use proper form all the time so it becomes
second nature to you. As you get comfortable with this
style of lifting you will develop a rhythm for it and
you will not need to consciously think about your lifting
form, you will just lift with good form automatically.
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