“Feeling” is one of the most important components of training for physique. No matter what gym you go to, you will have seen someone doing a bicep curl, for example, with little regard for proper technique or knowledge of what they are doing. They are just trying to heave as much weight as possible, shouting and screaming, and paying little or no attention to the exercise. Success in body-building however comes from the muscular contraction. It is both the key and the secret. If you don’t FEEL the muscle, you can’t grow the muscle.
We, perhaps, have all been guilty of it at some time or another. Some guys especially can buy into societal pressure to be macho and compete on the gym floor. Granted, some might do it occasionally as a bit of fun competition, but when trying to train seriously it will only ever get you so far. If you want to build that impressive physique, the one that satisfies your ego, then you must leave your ego in the changing room.
Every now and again, if you feel you may have fallen into the ego trap, it’s good to go back to the basics. Perform a ‘rehearsal’ workout using extremely light weights, with perfect slow motion form and high repetitions. Feel your contraction points, adjust your feet and hands slightly, add a slight arc or twist to the movement to maximise the contraction, play with the depth of motion and most importantly open up the mind-muscle pathways by fostering an awareness of the contraction points and movements. Really FEEL the contraction.
A common question I get asked is if I believe in using heavy weights. The answer, in short, is yes … but it comes with a very specific definition of what ‘heavy’ means to me. I personally believe the last rep of each set must be the last one you could possibly complete with the given weight. If this is the case, regardless of the numerical value of the weight, then the weight is heavy. If you are aiming to do 4 reps, then that fourth rep must be the last rep you can do with the weight you are using. If you are doing 20 reps, the twentieth rep must be the last rep you can do with that weight. Don’t worry about the actual weight of the barbell or dumbbell itself; think about the weight in terms of the rep range. Reaching that point of fatigue or failure on the last rep is what determines if a weight is “heavy”.
Weights being called ‘heavy’ or ‘light’ is a misnomer. It’s all relative and we should refer to weights in relation to how difficult something is to move under a given set of parameters. The terms heavy and/or light can leave people feeling intimidated and/or dismissive. This means the training plan will not be performed as intended because it lacks the most important of instructions – the feeling.
Properly applied, every weight has a use. So, don’t be afraid to throw those trisets, giant sets and supersets in and fail on a 10kg bench press!