T Nation

How Important Is Proper Technique?


#1

this morning i was messing around with my phone at school when this article really caught my attention

i just wanted to know what you guys think about this and how cheating could be implemented consistently in one’s training. also, i’m interested in knowing, according to your experience, to what degree form can break down while still yielding gains to the target muscles.

post away!


#2

Haven’t read the article but IMO if the exercise is doing its job and not causing or leading to injury than the form is good. Of course if lifting maximum weight possible is the goal (powerlifting/weightlifting), than form is of greater concern.


Khangles' GIF Dump
#3

Cheating Works

One of the keys for hypertrophy and strength is intensity. That means at some point pushing the movement to failure or close to it.

Muscle Fatigue

As you near muscle fatigue, Technique falters and changes. That’s the downside.

The upside is that as you near fatigue, a greater number of muscle fiber are innervated, Muscle fiber that are worked grow in size and strength.

Dr Jake Wilson (formerly with the Human Performance Lab at the University of Tampa) stated that maximizing effort and getting the weight up at all cost is an effective at increasing muscle mass and strength.

Exercise Overload

For hypertrophy and strength, overloading the muscle in an exercise is necessary.

Ironically, only 30% of an exercise overloads the muscle in an exercise.

That means that approximately 70% of an exercise Underloads the muscle; thereby not engaging and working the majority of the muscle fiber. No work, no growth.

This brings us to…
.
Exercise Strength Curves

Exercise fall into three different type of strength curves.

  1. Ascending Strength Curve: These exercise are hard at the bottom and easy at the top. Thus, they overload the bottom part of the movement but not the top.

Examples: Squats, All Pressing Exercises, Deadlifts, Leg Press, etc.

What works with these movement is “Accommodating Resistance Training”, band and/or chains.

Attaching chains and or bands ensures muscle overload is maintain through a greater range of the movement.

  1. Descending Strength Curve: These movement are easy at the beginning and hard at the end of the movement.

Exercise Examples: Primarily Compound Pulling Exercises such as Lat Pulldowns, Bent Over Rows, etc.

That mean to fully work the end of the range of let’s say a Bent Over Row, a lighter load must be used.

However, “Cheat The Weight Up” with momentum allows you to overload the end of the range of the Bent Over Row with much greater load and intensity.

An empirical example of the result produced by this type of “Cheating Method” is…

https://www.t-nation.com/training/kroc-rows-101

This method ensure the posterior chain (Lats, Traps, Rhomboids, Rear Delts, etc) are maximally overloaded.

  1. Bell Shaped Strength Curve: These movement are easy at the beginning and end of the range of the movement. They are hard in the middle range.

Examples: Primarily single joint exercise such as Triceps Pushdown and Curls.

“Cheating The Weight Up” allows you to overload the initial part of the movement and the end of the range, as well.

When Cheating Is Bad

Technique falls apart when muscle fatigue sets in. Continuing to push/pull the weight up at all cost ensure you develop poor technique.

Developing Technique

Technique is best developed under the following conditions.

  1. Performed when fresh, at the beginning of a training program.

  2. Preformed for 1 to 2 reps per set with loads of 80% plus of your 1 Repetition Max.

  3. Rest Period between Technique Sets need to be 3 minutes plus.

  4. Once muscle fatigue sets in, STOP.

Research has demonstrated two things…

a) Muscle Fatigue changes your technique. The focus is on getting the weight up any way you can at the cost of technique.

b) When your technique changes, the muscle firing sequence changes, as well. Different muscle are used.

Squat Example: With some Squatters, once their legs fatigue, lifters often end up performing a “Good Morning Squat”, falling forward and Good Morning up the weight.

Bench Press Example. When the muscle fatigue, some lifter have uneven extension when finishing the lift. One arm leads while the other arm fall behind.

A right handed lifter’s arm often falls back, while the left one lead in driving the weight up.

The misconception is the a right handed lifter has a weaker right arm, which is untrue.

The right arm is the dominate, stronger. By dropping back it decreases the load on the left arm. That means the right arm end up pushing more weight than the left to get the weight up.

Westside Powerlifting

This method allows you to increase strength and size while maintaining great technique.

  1. Auxiliary Exercises: Exercise similar in nature to the Squat, Bench Press and Deadlift are used to develop strength and size.

Auxiliary Exercise are “Disposable”. You push them to the limit during some part of your training cycle, getting the weight up at all cost.

Then the Auxiliary Exercise is disposed of and replace by another that is similar in nature.

Squat Example: Preform High Bar Squat, then Zercher Squats.

  1. Technique Training: Utilize the recommendation stated above.

Kenny Croxdale


#4

Clueless

So, you are commenting on something you are clueless about. That is idiotic.

Kenny Croxdale


Khangles' GIF Dump
#5

I remember reading this article years ago. At that time, I took one over-arching principle away from it that TC didn’t explicitly state and implemented it into my training.
So that I don’t get harassed by Kenny, I went ahead and REREAD the article, and I got the same gut reaction that I did the first time:

‘Form’ is not a universally applicable concept – everybody is different – so play around with the form you’re using until you find what works best for you. When you find something that feels right, if it doesn’t look textbook, don’t worry about it. Is hypertrophy a science? Yes. Does it have to be solely scientific? No.

That, I believe, is the real take-home-message from the article.


#6

No Chill
KennyCrox has no chill


Khangles' GIF Dump
#7

The point is to exercise in such a way as to reap benefits without injuring yourself isn’t it? I mean it’s that simple.

Complete form dogma ignoring different people’s different builds is unhelpful and potentially troublesome but so is saying form doesn’t matter at all.


#8

That wasn’t the take home message.

Kenny Croxdale


#9

After reading the article, and pulling from my own experience, here are my thoughts.

If you prioritize super duper perfect rigid form only, your intensity will be low, strength gains will be extremely slow to non existent. As a bodybuilder, performance and form is extremely important, but so is intensity and improving in strength, which can’t be done if one is too obsessed with what they perceive to be sub-par form and therefor won’t move up in weight. It’s all about finding the right combination of the heaviest weight you can lift within your desired rep range, and also having a variety of rep ranges in your workout. There’s nothing wrong with some body English every now and then if that’s what it takes towards the end of a set, provided the desired muscle is still doing the bulk of the work. We’ve all seen guys do bicep curls that involve more upper body and shoulders than anything else, and their arms never look any bigger year after year. Guys that bench too heavy with their ass off the bench and shoulders and triceps doing most of the work, who never fill out their shirts any more than they did two years ago.

To say “form doesn’t matter” is an extreme statement meant to get the article some attention. I think we can ALL attest to the fact that form does matter, as we all see folks in the gym day in and day out lifting weights that are clearly heavy for them, with poor form, poor MMC and they never look any different.

The negative is also overlooked here, which is where the real muscle damage and growth will occur. Better “form” with a quick negative that is not controlled vs worse “form” with a slower negative that has more tension, which will bring more results? There are too many factors involved to say definitively, but you have to be able to control the weight enough to have a controlled negative that engages the desired muscle.

For building mass, “Proper technique” means having a great MMC (mind muscle connection), and lifting the heaviest weight for the desired rep range. If the MMC is strong, the movement is being initiated with the working muscle and the weight allows the lifter for enough time under tension, that is proper technique.


#10

Q: How Important Is Proper Technique?

A: Proper technique is very important, because you need to at least know what proper technique is before you start cheating.

I don’t think it should be used consistently. It should be used strategically. Cheating - or really “using loose form” is probably a more accurate term to avoid negative connotations - should be done with purpose and deliberately. You shouldn’t “cheat” while thinking you’re using strict form. That’s how injuries happen.

You should be able to not use loose form if you choose to, instead of thinking “that’s how it’s supposed to be done.” Whether it’s body swing on curls, laterals, or pulldowns or a shortened ROM on bench and squats, if you say to yourself before the set starts “this is how I’m gonna do the reps”, and it leads to greater stress on the muscle, then you’re good to go.

Varies from exercise to exercise, largely due to risk:reward. You can get away with looser form on lateral raises than you can with deadlifts. But the biggest factor is the lifter’s mind-muscle connection. If you don’t know what you’re doing (again, that ties back to knowing how to do things right to begin with), cheating can lead to less muscle stress.


#11

Your right, it was stupid of me to comment on an article thread without first reading the article.

This one you are less right about. After reading said article, I stand by my initial comment 100%. The part where I said “if the exercise is doing its job and not causing or leading to injury than the form is good” was a main theme in the article. And the even this part “Of course if lifting maximum weight possible is the goal (powerlifting/weightlifting), than form is of greater concern” was mentioned as the article stated that it was primarily focused on hypertrophy and not strength sports.

Now if my comment was completely off track or ridiculous, I would definitely like to be called out so I can learn something, but as far as I can tell you where just being inflammatory. My assumption was than justified when I read:

Gotta love a bit of confirmation bias.


#12

Gotta agree with Chris. Nothing wrong with loose form used strategically once you have mastered proper form.

Kenny links to Kroc rows which seem to me to be a cheat row that’s been validated as a proper rowing technique.


#13

Without reading the article or most of the responses…

It’s a variable to be considered like any other.

Should you learn proper form to avoid injury and hopefully get all out of a movement that you’re trying to? Undoubtedly.

Does having less than perfect form mean that you’ll definitely get hurt? Nope

Does having less than perfect form mean that you won’t reap benefits from the movement? Nope. In fact you’re always going to see people that despite “doing it wrong” make much better gains than others who are sticklers for perfect form… BUT, it the reason they’re making better gains because of the loose form? Most likely not.

Like I said, it’s only one variable in a giant equation.

S


#14

Eccentric Speed

Actually, a slightly faster Eccentric produces better results than going slower.

For Maximal Strength Gains, Should You Use Slow Eccentrics?
https://bretcontreras.com/strength-gains-slow-eccentrics/

eccentric-only training, lowering slowly is less effective for gaining strength,…

If you lowered more quickly, you could use a much heavier weight…

…using heavier loads will almost always make you stronger, …

Faster (i.e. heavier) eccentric-only training is indeed a much better training method than slower (i.e. lighter) eccentric-only training, if your goal is primarily to get stronger (Paddon-Jones et al. 2001; Farthing & Chilibeck, 2003a; 2003b; Shepstone et al. 2005)

fast group increased eccentric strength by more than the slow group,

Faster Eccentrics produced…greater gains in muscle thickness (measured by ultrasound), they ascribed these greater gains in strength to larger amounts of hypertrophy caused by the higher mechanical loading. These findings are in line with those reported by Paddon-Jones et al. (2001), who found larger gains in type II fiber proportion after fast eccentric training, compared to slow eccentric training.

taking 1 second to perform elbow flexion through 180 degrees (at 180 degrees/s) produces superior strength gains compared with taking around 6 seconds to move through the same range of motion

Conclusions

Studies comparing the effects of slow and fast eccentric-only training show that faster (i.e. heavier) eccentric-only training leads to greater gains than slower (i.e. lighter) eccentric-only training.

Kenny Croxdale


#15

@KennyCrox

I believe you misinterpreted what @robstein said. When we talk about uncontrolled eccentric, we usually refer to “letting the weight come down” without actually contracting the muscle to try and decelerate it. A 1-second negative can still mean lots of tension is in the muscles if they are being contracted and are actively trying to slow down the weight. That’s just my opinion though. Anyway, I’ve got 2 questions for you

  1. I saw the studies you mentioned involved eccentric-only training. Are the result applicable to “traditional” training where both concentric and eccentric contractions are involved?

  2. Does all of this mean that all the techniques that involve the accentuation of eccentrics by lowering the weight slowly (as the “mTor activation” technique in CT’s Best Damn Program) are actually ineffective and don’t lead to better gains?


#16

Correct. It was more of a rhetorical question. My primary goal is to gain muscle mass, priority over gaining strength. Of course we all want to get stronger, but I will focus my training on lifting as heavy as possible with a controlled negative to get enough time under tension. This article classifies “gains” as strength increases, good research for sure, but not what I was talking about.

@KennyCrox as you like to quote Bret Contreras, here’s an article he wrote called “10 Reasons Bodybuilders are Bigger Than Powerlifters”. https://www.t-nation.com/training/why-bodybuilders-are-more-jacked-than-powerlifters.

Reason #2 is what I am referencing, here’s a copy/paste.

2. Time Under Tension
It’s also important to take into account the higher levels of poundage (weight x reps) and time under tension (TUT) performed by bodybuilders in comparison to powerlifters.

Let’s say a bodybuilder performs a bench press routine consisting of 225 x 12, 275 x 10, 315 x 8, and 335 x 6, while a powerlifter does 315 x 5, 365 x 3, 405 x 1, and 415 x 1. Under this scenario, the bodybuilder lifted 9,980 total pounds while the powerlifter lifted 3,490 total pounds.

Assuming 2 seconds per repetition, the bodybuilder accumulated 72 seconds under tension while the powerlifter accumulated 20 seconds under tension - a significant difference!

Reasons 5 and 6 also.

5. Manner of Execution
Bodybuilders have been saying for years that it’s not just about the amount or resistance used, it’s also about the manner of execution.

Bret’s EMG experiments found that a 225-pound bodybuilding-style bench press (wider grip, elbows flared, bar lowered to mid chest) activated more pectoralis major fibers than a 225-pound powerlifting-style bench press (narrower grip, elbows slightly tucked, bar lowered to lower chest).

Often, maximum attempts at squats and deadlifts yielded lower EMG activation than submaximal lifts. This is due to the body instinctively contorting itself to lift heavier weights, and the contortions often involve invoking assistance from passive structures such as ligaments.

For example, a powerlifter might round his upper back excessively to “hang” on his ligamentous structure, which increases passive assistance while simultaneously decreasing active muscle requirements.

Professional bodybuilders typically control the weight and use a smooth tempo, whereas many powerlifters allow some form deterioration when approaching a max. Furthermore, many bodybuilders avoid the lockout position to keep constant tension on the targeted muscle.

For example, let’s say a bodybuilder is performing dumbbell incline presses. He might go 5/6ths of the way up and then reverse the weight and head back down. During a pec fly the bodybuilder may only go 2/3rds the way up. In this manner, the tension is kept on the pecs to facilitate a better pump.

6. Mind-Muscle Connection
Bodybuilders often preach about the feeling the muscle work. Research has shown that activation training can increase the relative EMG activity during an exercise.

For example, a two-month focus on glute activation could cause an individual to use more glute muscle during a compound exercises such as a squat or lunge, and possibly decrease the involvement of synergists such as the hamstrings.

Bodybuilders purposely target an intended muscle and manipulate their form to maximize the tension on that muscle.

On the other hand, all powerlifters care about is lifting maximal poundages. Thus, they try to involve as many muscles as possible to generate optimum force.

For example, during the bench press, a powerlifter attempts to maximize leg drive along with pec, lats, anterior delts, and triceps contribute to lift the heaviest weights possible. They’re more concerned with optimal mechanics than muscle activation.

While the powerlifting method is great for total body stimulation, the bodybuilding method really hammers a particular area and might induce more damage and a greater pump while reducing overload to the CNS.

@KennyCrox just wondering, not asking at all in any type of aggressive way, what your training is like. You are extremely knowledgable, again not trying to be aggressive here, I’m just curious as to what your own training is like.


#17

I think it really depends what you want to achieve + on what movements you are using less than perfect form on. I mean, as the article quite rightly states, shabby form on squats & deads can quickly fuck your shit up!

Using at least a bit of body English on certain movements is almost inevitable (especially stuff like heavy curls & raises etc)…people who have never gone super-heavy on these kind of movements simply don’t have the experience to realise this, hence the Form-Nazi-Off you sometimes get on some Youtube vids.


#18

x2.
I’d love to get an insight on what Kenny’s training is like


#19

Great reply. Contreras and Schoenfeld provide great information.

My Training Program

I am an old Powerlifter. So, my training program focus is on Strength Training.

I use a variation of the Westside Powerlifting Program. However, instead of having a day set aside for Power and one for Strength, I incorporate them into one with…

Post Activation Potentiation Training, PAP

This method “Supersets” a Strength Movement with a Power and/or Speed Movement.

Performing a Strength Movement (resting 3 minutes or longer) and then performing a Power or Speed Movement increases power output, with a well written program.

Here are the two basis PAP Methods…

  1. Contrast Training utilized the same Exercises for both Strength and Power.

Strength: Heavy Bench Press

alternated with…

Power: Moderate Load Bench Press

Post Activation Potentiation can also be applied to Hypertrophy Training…

The 1 - 6 Principle

Charles Poliquin provides you with how to employ it for increasing muscle mass.

  1. Complex Training utilizes Strength Exercises that are similar in nature to the Power Exercise. Since I use Complex Training, let me provide you with the “Primary Exercises” that I use.

Squat Day

  1. Strength: Heavy Partial Belt Squats for set of 1 - 4 Repetition Per Set

alternated with…

  1. Power: Power Box Squat with Bungees,which I preform over Bands for Sets of 2 Repetitions.

Bench Press Day

  1. Strength: Heavy Partial Incline Press for set of 1 - 4 Repetition Per Set

alternated with…

  1. Power: Power Bench Press with Bungees,which I preform over Bands for Sets of 2 Repetitions.

Deadlift Training Day

I don’t train the Deadlift. I follow the same Complex Training Protocol. However, I employ Heavy Partial Good Morning with Power Cleans. I wrote a magazine article on this around 2002 for Powerlfiting USA. This is another topic for another time.

  1. Upper Back: Heavy Pull Ups

alternated with…

  1. Power Dumbbell Rows.

Hypertrophy Training Days

I incorporate Hypertrophy Days with an Upper Body Pulling Day, Upper Body Pushing Day, Squat Day and “Deadlift” Day.

Hypertrophy Training Exercises are rotated from one training cycle to the next.

Cluster Sets of 4 - 6 Sets of 4 - 6 Repetitions are used with 10 to 45 seconds between each Cluster Set.

Here is one training cycle example.

Squat Anterior Lower Body Day: Kettlebell Squat Swings. These fry your Quad and Glutes. I work up to 120 lbs or more with the Hungarian Core Blaster that works for Swings. See Contreras’ article below for how to make your own Hungarian Core Blaster.

Rather than Swinging the Kettlebell with a Hip Hinge, bending at the waist, you sit back and Squat into the movement.

Contreras references the Squat Swing power output in…

Are Heavy Kettlebell Swings Better Than Deadlifts?

Upper Body Push Day: :“Scrape The Rack Shoulder Press”, Brad Ford Press and Triceps.

Scrape The Rack/John Meadows

Good Morning Posterior Chain Day: Hip/Back Extension. If you preform this correctly, it fries you hamstring and glutes. When performed incorrectly, it kills your back.

Hip Extenstion/Contreras

Lat Posterior Chain Day: Cable Rows, Face Pulls, Curls

Cluster Set Hypertrophy Training

As I noted, my Hypertrophy Training is performed with Cluster Sets.

4 - 6 Repetition performed for 4 to 6 Sets with 10 to 45 seconds rest between each Cluster Set.

Thus, if you perform 6 reps for 4 Cluster Sets, you have cranked out 24 Total Reps in that Cluster Set.

If you perform 5 Total Cluster Sets, you have performed 120 Total Reps for that exercise.

Cluster Set Research

Dr Jon Oliver has some great information on this in his PhD Dissertation…

Intra-Set Intervals in Hypertrop;hic Training Effects on Hypertrophy, Strength and Power and Myosin Heavy Chain Composition

It is 92 pages. Here is the “Cliff Notes”…

“Super Fast” Type IIb/x Muscle Fiber are exhausted in approximately 10 seconds. Fast Twitch Type IIa are exhausted at around 30 seconds, usually less.

In Limit Strength (1 Repetition Max) and Explosive Power Movements elicit the “Super” Fast and Fast Muscle Fiber.

Once the “Super” Fast and Fast Twitch Muscle Fiber are exhausted, they stop working. Then the Slow Twitch Type I Muscle Fiber engage.

Cluster Sets provide you short rest periods that allow the “Super” Fast and Fast Muscle Fiber to rest, so they can work again.

Cluster Set in the right Set/Repetition/Rest Between range maintain power while increasing muscle mass.

Now the but…

Traditional “The Pump” Method For Maximal Hypertrophy

For increasing muscle mass, the Traditional Hypertrophy Protocol is more effective.

Knowledge

  1. I an old guy who been around a long time and tired a lot of things.

  2. I have College Minor Degree in Exercise Science. I went back and picked up another 21 hours in the 1990’s. I now have more hours in Exercise Science that my major.

  1. I am a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (since 1998 with the National Strength and Conditioning Association, NSCA. Most College and many Pro Strength Coaches have this certification.
  1. I still have some State Powerlifting Records from 2001 to 2005. I still lift and compete but old age is kicking my ass.

  2. I have co-written and written 5 strength training magazine articles.

  3. I work in Commercial Fitness Equipment Sales. I work with some high school coaches with their strength program.

  4. I was an International Powerlifting Referee for 8 years. The benefit was I had access to some of the best lifter in the game: Dr Fred Hatfield, Larry Pacifico, Mike Bridges, Bill Kasmaier, etc.

  5. I have hosted the Albuquerque Strength and Conditioning Clinic since 2012 (a sanctioned Strength Clinic). It is a 7 hour clinic composed of Exercise Physiologist, Strength Coaches, Nutritionist, Physical Therapist, etc. It is a non-profit event.

The clinic provides me with a lot of knowledge from this event and I have access to some smart people.

I call them up with questions and interrogate them until they cry.

Kenny Croxdale


#20

Pretty Cool, Kenny!

What’s a bungee? How much bungee tension do you try to get?

Power Cleans from the floor, all the time? Any work from hang or blocks? Did you ever try the bungees with cleans?