While this is a thread about good technique, I think it’s important to address the issue of using loose technique or “cheating.”
Not to bring this thread off-topic at all, but I think it’s something worth mentioning, and here seems like a good place to mention it as long as we don’t get hung up on the idea.
A few rules of thumb (should be rules of the wrist?) about cheating:
- You shouldn’t cheat unless you’ve already learned, practiced, and committed to memory textbook-perfect technique for the given lift.
“Cheating” implies that you already know what “proper” form should be for an exercise and you use that good form on a regular basis. Having a beginner incorporate cheating techniques too early in their lifting career could lead them to thinking that it’s normal or acceptable to “cheat” the majority of the time.
Cheating is a semi-advanced intensity-boosting technique and I’d rather have someone get standard exercise down pat before getting involved in learning when and how to incorporate cheat reps. Just like I wouldn’t teach an absolute beginner about partial reps or rest-pause.
- You shouldn’t cheat unless you know why you’re cheating.
For bodybuilders, cheating is usually a way to get more reps without having to reduce the weight. More often than not, you want to know ahead of time that you’re going to cheat the last few reps of a set (unless you’re advanced/experienced enough to really know when to wing it and how far to push).
Even when we’re using cheat reps, you’ll benefit most if you perform the negative under control. This will go even further towards the enhanced stimulus. For example, with curls or lateral raises, you’d use lower body drive* to get the weight up, but you’d do a “regular” negative and lower the weight under control. When you can no longer control that negative, you’ve reached absolute muscle failure and continuing to train is redundant at best.
- This reminds me of a point I picked up somewhere, can’t recall where though. As a built-in “safety feature”, try using total lower body drive to initiate the cheat (as if doing a push press), rather than just swinging the lower back, which is more injury-prone in general.
As a more visual example, let’s consider bent barbell rows. There are two basic ways to use cheating. We could either load a weight that wouldn’t allow textbook-perfect reps and do cheat reps for the entire set, which would have strength benefits since we’re using heavier-than-usual weight. If you can be sure to still activate the target muscles (instead of letting the momentum take tension off them), this would also obviously benefit muscle growth.
Or instead, we’d load our standard weight, something that we can handle with textbook-perfect reps, and we’d perform a set of those perfect reps until near-failure, and then immediately finish the set with some cheat reps. This would have some benefit for strength and muscle size since your muscles are under tension for a longer time.
The main point is that a beginner should know what good, safe form is; they should practice that high-quality form the majority of the time; and they should consider using loose form or “cheat reps” as part of their training strategy only when it’s appropriate to do so.