Delayed Opening Monday, 9/20: Wellness Center will tentatively open at 8am on Monday, 9/20. Electrical repairs are needed due to a motor vehicle accident outside of the Wellness Center.
We’ve all been guilty of this at one time or another. You’re in the gym, doing what you’ve been told is safe and effective, and someone comes along that seems to be in pretty good shape and starts doing some crazy variation of an exercise on the machine next to you. As you watch in amazement you start to think, ‘Well if it works for them…’
I call this phenomenon “Weight-Stack Envy” and it affects millions of well-meaning gym goers every day. Whether the temptation is to load more weight on an exercise to compete with those around you, or make a change to your form on an exercise because of something you’ve seen someone else do, the results are often detrimental to your program and usually end up being unsafe or harmful.
It’s simply human nature. We are wired to want to compete with others. We naturally want to do well and be the best. So when we see someone else lifting more weight or seemingly gaining better results we want to do the same.
I have had the opportunity to visit many professional strength and conditioning coaches over the past several years from West Virginia University, Virginia Tech, Virginia Military Institute, University of Michigan, and more. Whenever asked about programming they always qualify their answers with this general statement: “Whatever you have is great, just make sure you teach technique and maintain rep integrity.” This principle applies to some of the most elite trained athletes in the world. Why wouldn’t it apply to “regular” gym folks as well?
The weight you are using and the movement you are doing have less to do with your success than how you maintain rep integrity. I find myself telling clients all the time that I want as many “good reps” as possible. A set of 15 is only as good as the reps that comprise it. If the load is such that you are only completing 8 of those reps with good form then a change needs to happen. Why waste your time doing bad reps? Don’t you have better things to do with that time?
Some exercises seem to be more susceptible to bad technique than others. Biceps curl and abdominal exercises of all sorts seem to stand out as two of the most commonly botched exercises. Regardless of the movement, I find it helpful to simply perform a very basic self-inventory after each and every set.
Performing a simple self-inventory after each set is beneficial because it causes you to pause and think about the set you’ve just completed. This makes each set you do more important. Ask yourself these simple questions:
Note that the load of the set is the last thing considered. That’s because before we make any decision about whether we need to adjust the load we should always think about technique. Think about whether you completed the set with “good reps” then you can make an informed decision about whether that set at that load was effective at overloading your muscles and causing them to fatigue at the rep range you have chosen.
One of the hardest things to do when I re-evaluate someone who has been in a routine for a while is lighten the weight they’re using on a certain exercise. Some people would rather I cut off one of their toes than drop the weight by 10 pounds on a chest press. But it’s important to understand that no one is really looking at how much weight you have on the stack or the bar, and if they are, then they’re here for the wrong reasons.
As soon as you give up on “Weight-Stack Envy” and start focusing on what YOU can do better to improve YOUR health and fitness, you will notice a marked change in the results you’re gaining from your workouts. Let go of the desire to out-do others and just focus on being the best you can be. Your workouts will be safer, more effective, and you’ll just feel better about it. Good luck!
By: Bryan Smelser, NFPT-CPT, Personal Trainer at Valley Health Wellness & Fitness Center
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