We like to think momentum is a pretty good thing, right? Being out of the gym for a while always makes it tough to get back into a routine. You go once or twice, and before you know it, it’s been a couple of weeks. That kind of momentum is a good thing, of course. But today, we’re talking about a different kind of momentum. The kind that is going to lull you into a false sense of accomplishment and kill your fitness gains. The kind that inflates your ego. The kind that just so happens to be one of my all-time biggest pet peeves in the gym: lifting momentum.
I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me to harp on this one sooner, but like they say, there’s no time like the present, right? I just got back from the gym earlier this morning, and low and behold, I saw lifting momentum all around me in full swing (pun intended). It’s the kind of thing you’ll notice the next time you’re looking for it in the gym. Guys and girls twisting, turning, leaning, and otherwise swinging their body to get those big heavy weights up. From bicep curls to lat pulldowns to the crunch…lifting momentum knows no boundaries. But what it does know, is how to stop fitness gains FAST in their tracks.
Essentially, the naive exerciser is using a heavier weight than normal, and to compensate, incorporates their body weight and/or swinging into the lift. This in turn generates momentum, which in turn makes it easier to lift said weight. If we were doing some sort of manual labor, I suppose this would make sense. But we’re not doing manual labor in the raw sense, we’re working out in the gym and trying to reel in those fitness gains. And when it comes to the gym, we don’t want to actually make things easier for ourselves.
The idea when we’re lifting is to completely isolate the muscle (or muscles) we’re specifically targeting. If we’re doing lat pull downs for instance, we’re hitting our lats, biceps, rear delts, and a couple other muscle groups. That’s it. We don’t want to recruit anything else or lessen the impact on these associated muscle groups. Far too often I see someone trying to lift the entire stack, and over compensating by rhythmically swaying backwards on each lift. In the worst offenders, their upper body is nearly parallel to the floor at the bottom of the lift. While I’m sure it really inflates their ego to watch their entire stack of weights raise and lower, it’s not doing much for their overall gains.
The next time you’re in the gym, I want you to test yourself. Perform each of your lifts with absolute perfect form. No swaying, no leaning, no rocking to get the weight up. Keep sharp focus on the muscles you’re targeting and feel each one squeeze, struggle, and work to lift that weight. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you tire when you take momentum out of the equation.
Not only that, you’ll be amazed at how much faster you increase the weights your lifting. This of course is going to help you with all other aspects of your fitness gains. Get stronger, add muscle, cut down on body fat, and improve your overall physique – that’s the vicious cycle we want to induce. But it all starts with form and getting the most from each one of your strength workouts.
So, let’s make a conscious effort to kick off the new year with that in mind. You’ve got a clean slate, and 2016 is only a few hours away. Each strength workout this year, you’re going to remind yourself, NO momentum. When you tire, you tire. When you can’t move the weight, you’re not going to swing, you’re going to stop. Do this enough times and the gains you make in the first part of the new year will outpace everything you did in 2015.
Have any questions, comments, or concerns? Leave a comment and I’ll get back to you shortly.