T Nation

Anti-cheat subtilities

Two days ago, I was introducing one of my friend to weight lifting. Actually, I’ve trained several of my friends because a) They are too cheap to use the services of a peronnal trainer and b) personnal trainers usually SUCK!

I always insist on perfect form and tempo. To make a long story short, I don’t let my friends get away with a bad form and it can take alot of time before they get it. I don’t care because it’s too important. So I was with my friend and he couldn’t keep his elbows glued to his body while performing barbell curls. He also had a tendency to move his upper arm to help the lift, and it pissed me off. He did the same thing while performing triceps pulldown. So I had the clever idea to stick 2.5 lbs. plates under his armpits, and suddenly, he had perfect form and he was screaming in pain! I felt his muscles and they were working big time! So I have 2 questions:

1- Is the plates-in-the-armpits a common technique?

2- Do you have other good ideas for preventing cheating in any exercise?

The plates-in-the-armpits technique is obviously working for your buddy. I would continue to have him perform his curls this way until he has mastered his form. Another technique you may want to try on him is have him stand with his back flat against a wall during curls. During squats, a lot of newbies tend to have wobbly knees which is an injury waiting to happen. Tie a string around both legs at the knees while he is in his stance. If his knees come in during the lift, the string will fall.

Andre: tried this technique today at the gym…it’s cool! My biceps are killing me!

Not to be a dick but here’s an alternate view of things:

  1. If your friend’s form sucked, maybe he just needed less weight on the bar.
  2. While the drama of seeing somebody suffer like hell during a set for the first time is pretty damn funny, it can spell the beginning of the end for a beginner. I can’t count how many times a well-intentioned friend of mine in college would take newbies to the gym and blow them up only to have them nevefr return because they were too sore after the first workout.

Thank you guys for your replies, it’s very cool! Thanks Sig for the squat tip! Jeff, my friend is 25 years old, 5’7", weights 200 lbs, and I made him curl a 25 lbs barbell for 15 reps. When I make a program for my friends, I split it in 2 days/week, 5 working sets per workout, so they don’t get bored and don’t give up. You are absolutely right when you say that the number one reason a newbie gives up is because his program is too difficult. Keep the suggestions and tip coming guys!!!

Sorry if I sounded like I was accusing - at your friend’s stats I’m sure 25 was not much. Another way to keep yourself honest, this time while squatting, is to do “box” squats using aerobic steps, assuming your gym is like every other fluffy gym is the US and has them laying around. They ensure that your depth is consistent every rep, can be adjusted in 2" increments and are narrow enough to permit a variety of stances with your feet positioned outside of them. Plus, if they can support some bouncing 250lb leg warmer queen, they can surely support a little touch-and-go squattin’.

when training my little brother, he could never seem to properly arch his back, whilst squatting or anything else that required an arch. I had a long wooden stick and told him if he didn’t arch his freakin lower back then I was going to whack it until he did. All of the sudden he concentrated really hard and managed to get a little arch. Practice makes perfect.

Much improper form is due to muscular imbalances, not cheating per se.

Your friend’s inability to keep his elbows glued to his body while performing barbell curls is due to a muscle imbalance between his biceps brachialis and brachii. Have him perform reverse curls (palms facing you). I would prescribe 4 sets. These 4 sets would replace one of his normal biceps exercises, i.e. total training volume should not change.


Thanx alot guys for your tips, I really appreciate. I really didn’t expect that much.

Damn, I wish I would of thought of the armpit trick. Even though I pride myself on form, I’m still gonna try it out tomorrow. Some other cool tricks to share. If you’re trying dumbell presses and need a spot, put wrist straps on while your training partner holds the tail piece of the strap. Your hands are on the dumbell, and if you give out, they just hold on to the strap. Learned this piece of invaluable information from an old Poliquin article.

As for newbies giving up when they go through pain…GOOD!! We have too many paper tigers in my gym as it is, they take up room. Sounds a bit harsh I know, but then again, I am testosterone driven :slight_smile: After my first squat workout, I thought I’d never walk again, but I liked knowing it made me stronger.

In regards to wobbly knees while squatting, I have found that this is sometimes caused by weak thigh abductor/adductor muscles. While these muscles are progressively strengthened while squatting heavier weights, the ability of the larger muscles to handle more weight will exceed the ability of these smaller inner/outer thigh muscles to keep your legs steady. Try using one of those “female” machines in your gym that work the area. Note: using the machine means that you have to sit on it yourself. Trying to use the gym mirrors to look up a girl’s shorts while she is using it will do nothing to strengthen these muscles. If your gym lacks this piece, squeeze a basketball between your knees for the adductors. For the outside leg, lie on your side and lift your leg up in the air slowly with or without ankle weights. I have yet to see a case of knock knees that wasn’t cured in 2 weeks by adding these exercises to the program.