A common mistake many gym goers make when working out is to mindlessly swing the free weights when curling or bouncing the weight off the chest when bench pressing. People subconsciously do this because it's their body's way of conserving energy and therefore makes the lift easier. But easier is not always better! Not only does this look utterly ridiculous to the casual observer, but more importantly, it's a complete waste of time! Why? Because swinging and bouncing weights allows too much momentum to take effect, which forces the joints (not the muscles) to bear most of the brunt of the work. Allowing momentum to take over is counterproductive because it doesn't allow your muscles to feel the contraction and tension needed for strength and/or hypertrophy to occur. Unnecessarily swinging and bouncing weights will inevitably cause joint wear and tear over time which could lead to injury. The faster you swing or bounce the weight, the more momentum occurs and the more force is exerted onto the joints, not the muscles.
Avoid the temptation to quickly perform a movement and instead take your time. Learn to control the speed of each repetition. Think about squeezing the muscle as you lift. A good rule of thumb: perform the concentric (contraction) and eccentric (stretching) portions of the lift in two and four seconds, respectively. Slow down and practice awareness throughout each repetition.
BOTTOM LINE: Ultimately, what matters is not how much weight you can hoist (check your ego out the door) but how you can lift the weight with good form and feel the muscle working. Your purpose in the gym, whether it's to get stronger, leaner, more muscular, etc., is to lift safely while achieving your fitness goal. Train your muscles, not your joints!
Brian Danley, CFT
"Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going."
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I'm a personal trainer who loves to help others fulfill their health and fitness goals. I consider myself a bodybuilder in that I live the lifestyle of eating healthy food, working out regularly, and sculpting my body.