8 Weight Lifting Fundamentals
That Affects Your Gains
When it comes to lifting, there are as many opinions as there are bro’s in the gym. But if you ask the serious coach, trainer, fitness/bodybuilding competitors or lifter there are always a few fundamentals that stay the same. So if you’re not getting the gains you want, make sure you have these fundamentals in place.
1. Don’t Hold Your Breath
This is something that happens when you’re a beginner, you take a deep breath in and then hold it as you lift the weight. Don’t hold it. Breath out as you contract the muscle (lift the weight).
This is called the concentric phase of the lift.
Pause for a moment at the top (peak contraction) and focus on squeezing the muscle. Then breath in as your lower the weight back to the starting position. This is the eccentric phase of the lift.
That’s one rep. Keep your breathing rhythmic and steady as you complete every repetition of the exercise.
2. Use A Full Range Of Motion
Range of motion simply refers to the distance and direction that a joint can move between a flexed (concentric) and an extended (eccentric) position.
For the best results, focus on slow and controlled movements from a complete extended position to a complete contracted position and then back to a full extended position for your next rep.
3. Keep Constant Muscle Tension
The next step is to make sure you keep constant tension on the working muscle through out the exercise. In other words, don’t lock your joints between reps to take pressure off the working muscle.
A good example of this is to lock your knees between reps on the leg press machine. This will reduce the tension on the muscles, but it places all the strain on the joint.
Not only are you reducing the effectiveness of your exercise, you’re also increasing your chance of injury.
So make sure you keep the tension on the muscle you are working.
4. Concentric Vs. Eccentric Contractions
So… what is more important? Both! Yes… there are strategies that call for focusing more on concentric or eccentric contractions, but these are usually advanced and under supervision of a coach. And this technique is usually to correct certain imbalances.
Having said that, one of the most common thing I see in the gym is people focusing on the concentric contraction (flexing) and then dropping the weight during the eccentric phase (extension) BIG MISTAKE!
You’re missing out on gains! Focus equally on the concentric and eccentric phase of the lift. Slow focused movements, prevents injury and maximises gains.
5. Getting It Up No Matter What
Rookie mistake! This ties in with maintaining constant tension. And if you do maintain constant tension, this won’t happen. Trying to use momentum by swinging the weight to make lifting easier defeats the point of you going heavier. PLUS it increases your chance of injury.
One of the places in the gym where I see ‘swinging, jerking and bouncing’ the most is with the lying leg curls.
Bouncing out of the bottom position while performing a lying leg curl forces your hips off of the machine’s support and focuses all the weight on your lower back when you’re really trying to work your hamstrings.
Simply focusing on maintaining constant tension will result in superior results. Don’t bounce, jerk or swing.
6. Progressive Overload Is Key
The progressive overload principle is similar to the Kaizen principle and that is to do a little better today than you did yesterday. Simply put, you should constantly chase and push for progress.
After a few weeks in the gym, you will realise that the weight you use to do on your last heaviest set is now quite easy. This means you aren’t straining your potential.
You should constantly try to push the barriers and break them. If you’re use to doing 3 sets of 8 reps, you may feel like you could now probably do 3 sets of 10 reps with the same weight if you wanted to.
This means you are getting stronger. What use to be hard… is now quite manageable. THAT MEANS IT’S TIME TO LEVEL UP!
So what you want to do is increase the weight you’ve been using for the exercise and lift it for your prescribed amount of sets and reps from this point on. If you can do more reps than you need to, that means you can go heavier. If you can’t lift the weight or even compete half the reps you should, then it’s too heavy. (Always keep good form.)
This process is known as progressive overload, and it is the absolute #1 key to getting the results you want from your weight training routine.
Do NOT fall into the trap of getting stagnant in your training – if you keep doing the same number of reps & sets at the exact same weight month after month – you won’t make any progress.
Time spent training does NOT equal results… Time spent straining, that is where your success will come from.
7. No Pain No Gain
It is normal to feel an intense burning sensation or fatigue during weight lifting because you are putting your muscles under strain.
HOWEVER if you feel a sharp, shooting or stabbing pain – back off. If you feel pain in any area other than your actual muscle (areas like ligament, tendon or bone) – back off.
There is a huge difference between “pain” from straining your muscle’s potential and “pain” from getting yourself injured. Listen to your body. Don’t push past your fitness level. Causing injury will only keep you away from the gym and cause you to lose your gains.
It’s like speeding.
It’s also usually caused by ego, and it seems like a great and fun idea till you get into an accident. So stick to the road rules and arrive alive!
8. The Peak Contraction
Squeeze the muscle on the peak of every movement for maximum activation of the muscle. The part of the contraction is the midpoint of a repetition or rather the completion of each flex (concentric) movement before you start the extension (eccentric) movement.
Take a moment to focus on the squeeze. Then lower the weight to the starting position.
That’s it! Focus on these 8 fundamentals of weight training and you are guaranteed to see improvement in your lifts and your results.
And as always… Here is to your success!
P.s – Make sure to leave me a comment or your questions if you have any.