Trying to improve your form is challenging 😩
Chances are, even if you’ve taken the effort to film yourself through your sets, you still wouldn’t know what, exactly, is wrong with your movement.
Is it mobility? Are you engaging the wrong muscle groups? Maybe it’s your stance?
There’s a straightforward solution to this: hire a personal trainer. The only problem? They're incredibly expensive. There's no way you're able to afford their services, especially when you're racking up colossal grocery bills – all thanks to your protein intake.
Well, I’m going to let you in on a secret. You can refine your technique for lifting weights without spending a single cent.
All you need are 2 special lifting techniques. Read on to find out what they are.
On a pause rep, you, well, pause at some point during each rep (typically where you transition from an eccentric to a concentric muscle action).
Examples include when you’re at the bottom position of a squat or the bench press.
Enhances awareness and mind-muscle connection
Pausing mid-rep forces you to pay attention to your body – and the muscles you’re engaging.
When you pause at the bottom position of the squat, for instance, you're able to observe if you're making any of the common squat mistakes, such as 1) knee valgus (i.e. caving in of the knees), 2) rounding your back, 3) allowing your hips to rise faster than your torso.
Eliminates ‘The Bounce’
By the way: paused reps also help improve your lifting technique by eliminating ‘The Bounce’.
Chances are, you know what I’m talking about. Sometimes, when the weights get too heavy, what you’d do is rely on momentum to get yourself out of the lift’s ‘sticking point’ (i.e. the most challenging part of the movement).
How this works comes down to physics.
When you stretch a muscle – lengthening your quads as you get to the bottom position of the squats, for example – it stores energy. It’s like stretching a rubber band.
As long as you don’t pause, this stored energy gets released when your muscle contracts, providing an extra boost as you come out of the movement.
Meaning? Your muscles aren't doing as much work as you think they are.
Of course, bouncing out of a rep isn’t always necessarily a bad thing.
You could use it in some situations, like when you're attempting a PR or performing explosive weightlifting movements (e.g., snatch, clean, or jerk).
But if you're trying to maximize muscle growth?
Then you’re going to want your muscles to be under maximum time under tension – and to lift the dumbbell/barbell.
That’s where the paused reps come in; they help dispel any elastic energy you’ve built up and rob your muscles of that boost that comes from momentum.
The other lifting technique you’ll want to make use of is something called the tempo rep.
And no, before you start thinking that you might have to break into a dance in the weights room … tempo simply refers to the rate or pace at which you perform a lift (typically slower than you're used to).
A tempo rep will be shown as a 4-digit code that looks like this: X-X-X-X (e.g. 3-1-3-0). Here's what that means:
- First number: The eccentric (i.e. the lowering or the 'negative') portion of the lift. In a pull-up, that would be you lowering your body down to the starting position.
- Second number: The mid-point of the lift. So, in a pull-up, this is where you've just pulled yourself up to the bar.
- Third number: The concentric (i.e. the lifting or the ‘positive’) portion of the lift. This would be where you engage your lats and pull yourself up to the bar.
- Fourth number: This represents the time at the top of the lift. In other words, the time right after the completion of a rep.
Still confused? Don’t worry.
Here’s an example: let’s say you’re supposed to perform the bench press with a 3-1-3-0 tempo. What that’ll mean is that you’ll have to lower the barbell for 3 seconds, pause at the bottom for a second, press it up for 3 seconds, then go for the subsequent rep immediately.
Like paused reps, including tempo reps within your training program helps motor control, body awareness, and lifting stability.
The tempo rep can also boost muscle growth
It should be obvious to you now that the tempo rep helps increase time under tension. That boosts muscle growth – and we’ve already covered that point under paused reps.
So, here’s something new. Tempo reps can also stimulate higher levels of muscle hypertrophy through another mechanism: muscle damage.
A quick recap: 3 mechanisms trigger muscle growth:
- Mechanical tension
- Metabolic stress
- Muscle damage
Depending on how long you pause for, both lifting techniques – that is, paused reps and tempo reps – are excellent at eliciting muscle growth through mechanical tension and metabolic stress.
But tempo reps are the only one that emphasizes the eccentric portion of the lift.
And that just so happens to be the portion that elicits the most muscle damage.
Meaning? Compared to the paused reps, tempo reps can offer the added benefit of fast-tracking your muscle gains (in addition to improving your lifting techniques).
Don’t be too overenthusiastic about these lifting techniques
You’re understandably excited about the idea of (finally!) achieving proper form for lifting weights in the gym.
Just a note of caution on incorporating these 2 lifting techniques into your routine, though: don't expect to use the same load as you did before!
For instance, if you could handle 80 kg on the barbell back squat, please opt for a lighter load when doing paused reps or tempo reps.
It’s going to be challenging.
And remember, the point of using these techniques is to improve your form.
So make sure you've nailed down the proper form before attempting to stack on more weight plates; the basis for progressive overload is proper form – always.
Oh, and before you go: it’s important to note that these lifting techniques should be included in a workout routine that’s well-structured.
You need to manage your training volume well, such that you’re able to recover (particularly since tempo reps elicit a ton of muscle damage that can make recovery challenging) between sessions.
No worries. That’s where GymStreak comes in. Just tell us your fitness goals, and we’ll do the rest. All you need to do is show up and lift the weights. So if that sounds good, check us out here now.Get GymStreak
Kompf, J., & Arandjelović, O. (2017). The Sticking Point in the Bench Press, the Squat, and the Deadlift: Similarities and Differences, and Their Significance for Research and Practice. Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.z.), 47(4), 631–640. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-016-0615-9
Krzysztofik, M., Wilk, M., Wojdała, G., & Gołaś, A. (2019). Maximizing Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review of Advanced Resistance Training Techniques and Methods. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(24), 4897. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16244897
Myer, G. D., Kushner, A. M., Brent, J. L., Schoenfeld, B. J., Hugentobler, J., Lloyd, R. S., Vermeil, A., Chu, D. A., Harbin, J., & McGill, S. M. (2014). The back squat: A proposed assessment of functional deficits and technical factors that limit performance. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 36(6), 4–27. https://doi.org/10.1519/SSC.0000000000000103
Proske, U., & Morgan, D. L. (2001). Muscle damage from eccentric exercise: Mechanism, mechanical signs, adaptation and clinical applications. The Journal of Physiology, 537(Pt 2), 333–345. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-7793.2001.00333.x