Monday, December 18, 2006

Day 40 Pics: The Eternal Dilemma: Form Vs. Progress

Day 40 of 84

Status - Round 4: Phase 3: Day 1


I had a dilemma today. Its a situation that is common to many a bodybuilder. The dilemma is form versus your progress.

Which is more important? Is it more important to have perfect form during the movement of the exercise? Or is it more important to progressively increase your weight poundage to stimulate new muscle growth, at the expense of form.

Even though most bodybuilding books and fitness experts will tell you that form is more important, the answer is not always that clear-cut, especially with top bodybuilding pros.

Many pros use techniques such as "forced reps" where a spotter constantly hovers over the movement to help the pro make that last do-or-die rep. However, the thing to remember is that most pro's training methodology is complete muscular failure on every set, regardless of the rep count.

The reason why pros use "forced reps" is because they are of the belief that training to muscular failure is the only way to stimulate new muscle growth. For example, you often see pros going near parallel to the floor when doing lat pulldowns, this is not textbook form as the textbooks will tell you to lean back only slightly to perform the movement.

How do I know this? Well right now I am completing my own personal trainer certification and the issue of form is a key component of a personal trainer's duty when giving advice to clients. The reason for this is that many times injuries are sustained when incorrect form is used. Likewise, injuries are also caused by loading up too much weight just to satisfy your ego.

So what's the answer? Well, it depends on a variety of factors like your training experience, your primary objectives (fat loss or muscle gain) and your pain tolerance factor just to name a few. The difference between pros and amateurs is that pros have experience, they often train to failure and MOST importantly they know when and why they are breaking form.

If you are new to bodybuilding I would strongly advise you to master (near) perfect form first before you start using advanced techniques like "forced reps." Once you have a solid base of knowledge and training experience (6 months to a year) then you can start using advanced techniques.

For me personally, the choice it quite simple at the moment. Even though I am a relatively experienced trainer (3 years in total) I have chosen to use perfect form on my exercises even at the expense of progressive overload.

The reason why is because my primary objective now is fat loss. Losing bodyfat through training requires a finding a happy medium between weight training and cardio. Too much of one or the other can be detrimental to your results.

When weight training for fat loss it is best to use to apply the overload principle to a high training volume rather than to muscular failure. The reason for this is that using the high volume technique in conjuction with short rest periods stimulates your metabolism which is at the heart of fat loss. If you train to muscular failure on every set you will simply not have enough energy to complete your workout effectively. When training for fat loss you should always keep that do-or-die rep in you.

Of course, if you are training for muscle gain only then the opposite is true. You should employ longer rest periods in conjuction with lower rep counts.

This brings me back to my original point. Today I had a dilemma with how much weight I should use for my squats on the high volume, high intensity "muscle rounds" routine. This is a technique of having only 10 seconds between 6 mini-sets of 4 rep counts. Previously I have been able to push 160 kg on squats when I have rest periods of 2 minutes.

However, in order to effectively complete "muscle rounds" I would have to drop the weight down considerably which is a blow to my ego! The other option was to do "partial squats" with a heavy weight (around the 140 kg mark) and keep my ego infalted at the expense of form.

In the end I chose to use perfect form and drop the squat weight down to 80kg for "muscle rounds." The reason is for the main point I talked about earlier, that is my main goal right now is fat loss not muscle gain. It is imperitive I do a high volume of training with effective form and short rest periods. This will (and has so far) stimulated my metabolism effectively.

Keep this in mind when you are next faced with this dliemma. Ask yourself " What is my primary objective here? Fat loss or muscle gain?"

Here are Day 40 pics for December 18, 2006.

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