141019 Mechanically wrong By Daniel Pare, N.C.C.P., C.S.O.
Good day to all. On my last article I referred to two kinds of muscular hypertrophy; sarcoplasmic and myofibril. The following article helps define what kind of training approach is needed to overcome, what I classify as ‘Mechanically Wrong’.
Why is it that one day you get up and your shoulder is aching (chosen joint for this article)? You did not injure yourself training and you know it, so what happened? Would it structural or muscular? We all need to realize that range of motion or flexibility with proper mechanics of the joints go a long way. How many reps are you doing per set? Would it be 8, 10…15? Here is what I have been observing over time, one single muscle group or an open kinetic chain exercise (the shoulder), is likely unlikely to sustain that amount of work per exercise, let alone for several exercises per session.
Become a good observer
For most trainees, regardless of their age and gender, the high repetition sets (8 and above) are just too much. I have actually run some in-house studies and here are my observations.
1) The shoulder press. A little while ago a 14 years old male joined my strength training facility and, on one occasion, I asked him to do standing shoulder barbell press behind the neck. He did 10 reps. As I am observing his form, I noticed that one of his shoulders was loosing stability after 5 repetitions. I asked him to sit down and I proceeded to test the subclavius. I noticed that it was not strong enough to hold tension. I gave him a little rest and we went back to set of 5 reps. I did the same test to realize that I just could not budge his arm. Let me remind you that the bar used in this scenario was not a full size Olympic bar (20 Kg), but a junior Olympic bar (5 Kg).
2) The bench-press. One day, one of my athletes was doing bench-press with 80 Kg on the bar. I looked at his form to realize very quickly that he could not keep sturdy shoulders after the 5th rep. I realized that his shoulder started to shift at around 4 reps then, the bar ended up over his eyes on the 8th rep and eventually, by the 10th reps he was trying to gain momentum by bouncing the bar off his chest. After his set of “12 reps” I asked his to sit down and I proceeded to test the infraspinatus to realize that it could not hold at all. I asked him to rest a few minutes then, I told him that I would tell him when to stop. This time I noticed that his shoulders were not doing their job after 2 reps. Since it was not doing anything beneficial I advised he only do 2 reps. He was not too sure about that and he was skeptical. I asked him to focus on sets of 2 reps for a little while. He was not too sure and quite scared I might ad. He persevered and within 3 weeks he was able to bench press 100 Kg for 5 sets for 5 reps and each set was closely monitored (testing).
3) This last one involves an Olympic weightlifter. Are you familiar with the snatch lift? The snatch is the one-motion lift and it is the Most Explosive Athletic Movement in Sport. On that particular training day, one of my athletes was not able to hold the bar above his head in the squat position. After watching him do the snatch I quickly realized that his left shoulder was collapsing under the bar. I asked him to sit down, so I could proceed with some testing. I found out that he had a weak infraspinatus, weak middle trapezius and weak rear deltoid. Interesting! That particular athlete was able to train, but could not lift what he wanted to do. After working on strengthening the muscles above-mentioned (he saw a Registered Massage Therapist RMT for part of the process) he was able to resume heavier training sessions very rapidly.
Whether you are doing barbell curl, triceps push down, lat pull down, squats… the same protocol should apply. If your idea is to focus on high repetition sets, make sure that you are paying close attention to form and technique. When the bar starts to go through a different groove and it starts moving unevenly, something is not right. By not paying close attention to proper form and technique, you will develop very poor function of that joint, this in turn will create pain, which may end up in more severe consequences.
Unless you are warming up, you should focus on a more productive approach being 5 reps per set(s).
“There is no way you can remain productive and get substantial lasting results, if you keep training at the level where everything becomes weak! You just can’t win. It is likely the reason why most trainees do not succeed in their quest to succeed”.
Daniel Pare Strength Coach
St. Thomas Ontario Canada