Do you weight train or weight lift?
Because there is a huge distinction.
Moving weight from A to Z doesn’t take much thinking.
Grab. Grunt. Move weight. That’s about it.
I have worked with many clients that complain that the resistance (I give them) on an exercise is light, and its a borderline insult that I assigned it to them.
Most of the time, they are right. They can move the weight without too much strain and complete the A to Z requirement of the exercise. Easy.
The path they took there, however, was faulty.
Compensations are everywhere in resistance training (and just moving around in life, too). The body will find a way to get it done. For example, instead of firing your glutes in a deadlift, your brain can just choose to fire hamstrings, lower back and adductors. That will lead to a problem in the future. Furthermore, the more you do this with the faulty pattern, the faster your body will default to that pattern when you do it again in the future.
So why does it matter? If the job gets done, who cares?
The job gets done, true, if you define the “job” by how far a weight moved and not by the pattern or sequencing of muscle involved. Did you train your body to perform optimally, or just how to compensate to get a job done?
Professional athletes are famous for this. Because they are pro athletes, they can get away with some pretty awful movement both in the weight room and on the athletic field. Because they are athletes, they can figure out (better than the average Joe) how to get a job done. The job may be a 40 yard dash or max effort squat or any kind of athletic movement. They may even do it very well. Sooner or later, though, things will go wrong. Declining performance and inevitable injury will follow these kinds of faulty movement patterns.
Compensations happen CONSTANTLY in resistance training. Whether it comes from a)fatigue -when your body starts to recruit any muscle it can to complete a movement, or
b)from a bad movement pattern that has been established long ago, like learning a deadlift wrong, or
c)from a structural problem, like adhesion in the hip flexor not allowing it to produce force.
A trainee needs to be aware of the subtleties of the movement being executed, and the EXACT muscle being recruited to get the job done.
This is easier said than done. It definitely takes a trained eye to watch for compensations and small movement deviations that could ultimately change the nature of an exercise.
My advice? If you have a trainer, don’t be offended if they tell you to regress an exercise or to lower the load. Its with your best interests in mind. Going forward, you’ll be able to lift the heavier loads, the correct way, and avoid injury.
If you haven’t worked with a professional, find a GOOD one that understands movement mechanics well. One who can guide you with a solid corrective exercise program.
Better yet, if you are new to resistance training, hire that professional before you need a corrective exercise program and begin with sound movement patterns from the start.
Matt Pirtle MA CSCS