I’ve seen it happen a thousand times: a big, muscular guy walks over to the dumbbell rack, grabs a pair of dumbbells that he feels “look” big enough. He then proceeds to do some sort of lift, whether it be shoulder presses, db bicep curls, reverse flye, etc…. Only instead of that lift, he actually just flails around in some sort of herky-jerky pattern, using momentum more than any muscle to move the weight around.
And it’s certainly not just guys that do this; I see it in females too. Or sometimes it’s not a flailing, spastic movement, but rather hardly any movement at all. I watched a guy doing back squats recently, and while he was moving the weights in a very controlled manor, he was also only moving them to about 30-40 degrees of knee flexion, and struggling to do so. I guarantee that if he would have decreased the weight on the bar, he could have gotten into a much better squat position, and he would have gained much more from a proper squat at a lower weight than a barely-quarter squat at a heavier weight.
Why do people go for weights and dumbbells that they can’t lift with proper form? Easy. One word:
You know, that two-faced monster that can be used for good or evil. A good ego can give you confidence; a little too much ego can make you cocky, (and lead to horribly flawed, possibly dangerous lifts).
Anybody who’s spent any time in the weight room, or exercising at all for that matter has had a few ego bruising moments, it’s inevitable. The first time you tried to do pushups, were they perfect? No, probably not. Maybe you can’t quite get a full unassisted pull-up, even though otherwise you’re quite strong. Maybe you have a particular lift that is difficult for you and requires much lighter weights than you would like to admit.
For me, it’s the reverse flye. Tara wrote a great post on these recently if you’re not familiar. For me, and for many people, this is my weakest lift by far. While most of my upper body DB work is done with 20s, 25s, 30s and 35s, I can not complete a full set of reverse flyes with anything over 10 lbs. And that’s just a set of 6. For 8 or 10, I need 7.5s. It honestly hurts my soul a little bit every time I have to grab those lighter dumbbells. For some, I know that 10 lbs is a challenging weight, but for me, I know how far I’ve come. I remember using the 10s back in the day, and I remember how much I struggled when I first started lifting weights. So to have to go back to those 10s, despite being leaps and bounds stronger than I used to be, is a little kick in the pants to my fragile ego.
Ego aside, sometimes you just have to suck it up and do it. Lifting weights that are heavier than your capability is not doing you any favors. It’s really just a waste of your gym time, pretty stupid, and quite frankly, potentially dangerous. Take care of yourself and keep working, because before you know it, you will move up to that heavier weight, but you’ll do so safely and correctly. I know I’ll eventually be able to move up to the 12s and beyond with my reverse flyes, but until then, I just have to keep reminding myself that quality > quantity.
Take away point:
The goal of each lift should be to use the maximum weight while maintaining a good quality of movement through a full range of motion. NOT lifting as much as possible at any cost. Trust me, no one is going to be impressed with how much weight you’re benching when it comes crashing down on your chest.
Do you notice people lifting more than they should? Would you ever say something to a fellow gym-goer if you saw this? Are there any exercises or lifts that hurt your ego?