If you’ve been training for long enough and you’re fairly serious about changing your body you will know how important using your mind and concentration is when you train. When we learn how to play sports as kids in school we perform drill after drill, jump shot after jump shot and if you reach a decent level you can perform the specific sport without even thinking about it. When training for aesthetics and building muscle I think the average gym goer takes for granted that using your mind is vital to getting good results. This is aimed more at men as a lot of men seem to think they know everything when it comes to training but women can learn from this too as you need to use the muscle between your ears too.
Just to mention a few things that should go through your head when you’re weight training (note this is mainly referring to body building/ aesthetics style training).
1.You have to concentrate on initiating the movement with the right muscle.
2.You must keep alignment (neutral spine etc)
3. You should be keeping tension in the muscle so it’s never resting so to speak.
4. You should stay ‘honest’ and keep good form.
There are even more things to think about at a higher level but that’s another article. So how do you spot an ego lifter? It isn’t hard as your average gym is FULL of them! Have you seen that dude who is lifting a massive weight on the cable crossovers but he has no chest development? Or the girl who pushes big weights on the tricep push downs but has the triceps of a 10 year old ectomorph? Chances are they’re not eating right and training correctly but also they’re probably training with their ego.
What are the classic signs of ego training and how do you spot an ego trainee?
1. Body English – They use their body to help them lift more. I’m sure you’ve seen ‘that’ guy or girl who does front raises and swings their hips to lift a heavier weight or swing their legs to help them do loads of partial pull ups? With exercises like lat pull downs, bicep curls, hamstring curls, leg extensions, lat raises etc you want to keep your body still so that your are just working the muscle intended and not ‘cheating’ so to speak.
2. Unintentional partial reps – Partial reps have there place (rehab, getting through sticking points of a lift, lifting heavier etc) but if you’re doing bicep concentration curls with a 2 inch range of motion so that you don’t look weedy in front of other gym goers then you’re an ego lifter.
3. Not controlling the weight – They lift way more weight than they can handle and they can’t control the weight especially on the eccentric phase of the lift so the tension on the muscle is reduced. A great example is the lat pull down where you see those people that jerk their body to pull the weight down and then let the weight fly back upwards in an uncontrolled way. This is ineffective and a great way to ruin your joints! You should be in control of the weight all the time! You should be able to stop and hold the lift at any point (this is referring to body building type training).
4. Only training the ‘show’ muscles – Sure everyone wants to have that ‘toned’ tricep or traps that burst out of vest but if you only train your arms and chest then you’re most certainly an ego lifter. You’re also setting yourself up nicely for a shoulder injury and what I call the ‘flamingo’ leg effect (skinny legs and bigger body). Whether you’re an athlete or you just want to look good you should aim to be balanced in terms of strength as this helps you avoid injury and look better.
5. Doing ‘wacky’ exercises – I added this one as I think there is some truth to it. You know those people who do twisting facepulls on a bosu (made up exercise!)? I think a lot of them do these wacky exercises to say ‘look at me’ which is ego training in my books. I can see in some sports (surfing etc) that unstable training might be useful but generally it’s better to train on a stable surface and lift a heavier weight!
6. Not doing their reading – If you don’t bother doing a bit of reading because you think you and your mate Dave know everything you are an ego trainee. It’s important to read up or ask a decent coach how to do things or else you probably won’t see decent results or worse still you’ll get injured.
In the great words of the Wu Tang ‘ You must think first before you move’
Strength and Salud