Are You Lifting Too Heavy?
I am in the gym getting my swole on when I see a squirrely looking gentleman sitting at the bench press. I think nothing of it because this is common at my gym. I then look up and notice he has 225 lbs on the barbell and is ready for take off. I think to myself, “Yup. This kid is going to die today.” In an effort to save his life, I say to him: “Do you need a spot?” The kid looks at me and say, “No I’m good.” I then chuckle to myself and think, “This is going to be good.”
He begins his set by getting into the sloppiest bench position I have ever seen. He then lifts his butt off the bench and goes into convulsions to lifts the bar off the rack. He brings the bar down about 2 inches, then pushes it back up. I stay close for attempt number 2 just in case the bar falls on his chest, but he repeats the process successfully.
This pissed me off. I wasn’t pissed because he kept the bar from crushing his rib cage, I was mad because he was doing absolutely nothing and wasting everyone’s time. Gym space is at a premium. To make it worse, there were people waiting to use the bench press while this bozo was lifting like an idiot. It is just completely unacceptable.
Don’t be this guy!
To ensure this is not you, I am going to share 5 clues that will tell you that you are lifting too heavy.
5. You Do Not Hit the Desired Rep Range
If your goal is 8 reps and you fail at 5, you are lifting too heavy. Simply lower the weight and you should be fine.
4. You Cannot Control the Weight
I am not against explosive lifting and leg drive on certain lifts. Let’s just clear that up right now.
If you cannot control the weight safely you need to lower the amount of weight you are using. Most well trained athletes know when they are safely “cheating” on reps, but some of you novice lifters need to bring it down a notch. If you have not been training for at least a year or two, I would suggest using only strict form that you can completely control. If your bicep curls look like power cleans, I am talking to you!
3. You Do Weird Things
This sounds odd but it is true. If you stomp your feet, lift one foot in the air, drastically change your body positioning, or one side of the bar moves at a different pace than the other you are lifting too much weight. There is no dancing in the weight room. If you want to dance join Zumba!
2. You Cannot Complete a Meaningful Rep
I was going to name this category: “You Cannot Complete a Full Range of Motion.” But the truth is that partial ranges of motion can be useful. So instead I went with the phrase “meaningful rep.”
So, what is a meaningful rep?
Simply put, it is a rep that will get you results. In the example above, the guy moved the weight 2 inches. This is not a meaningful rep. If you cannot decipher the difference between a meaningful rep and a worthless rep, stick to using a full range of motion on all of your lifts until you understand this concept and your body a bit more.
1. Your Joints Ache but Your Muscles Do Not
If your muscles rarely feel worked but your joints hurt, chances are you are lifting too much weight. This usually is accompanied with sloppy form. The sloppy form takes tension off of the muscle and places it on the joints, which is exactly what you do not want. This will taking the tension off of the muscle will give you less results and beating up your joints will set you up for an injury down the road.
The best advice I can give you is to check your ego at the door and lift the correct way. It is not about how much weight you use, it is about getting the results you want. Always keep this in mind and you will be fine.