Word Count: 1057 NF Difficulty: Advanced
I wanted to kick off today with a link to a podcast I did for Mike Vardy, creator of eventualism.com , a satirical site aimed at helping people ‘get things done…eventually. It’s like a site that Stephen Colbert would run if he decided to run a productivity website. You can listen on Mike’s site, download it here directly, or get it in iTunes here.
Let’s move onto today’s topic, “Doing a full rep.”
I was at the gym last night, and in a span of 10 seconds I watched 3 guys half-assing it. A guy was doing squats with three plates on each side of the bar, and he would go down like four inches before going back up. Next to him, I watched a guy swinging all over the place as he did “pull ups” where he only went down halfway and then barely brought his chin over the bar. In between the two, a guy was doing ‘bicep curls’ while throwing his back into each rep because he couldn’t actually lift the weight with just his arms.
If you got a chance to read through yesterday’s article from Henry Rollins, you know that “200 pounds is always 200 pounds.” Mark Twight, the lead trainer for the actors from the movie 300, has slightly amended that statement: “to ensure valid measurement a yardstick must be one yard long and two hundred pounds is only that when moved through a complete range of motion — regardless of the speed at which it moves.”
Mark had a lot of competition between actors while getting everybody ready for the film; in this article (thanks for the link Evan!), he discusses how the majority of people in a gym will very quickly sacrifice form and completeness for speed:
“As our training group grew during the last year we noticed that, in the quest for faster times work quality was easily sacrificed. Such may be unconscious behavior but I like to call it cheating. When movement quality declined we couldn’t use the stopwatch to monitor improvements because other parameters must be fixed for the time to be relevant: if the load is fixed, and the movement is always the same then posting a faster or slower time is useful knowledge. If the load is fixed but the range of motion (ROM) is shortened a second variable has been introduced and knowing the time is no longer useful.”
“We train in preparation for sport-specific tests or work-related challenges, we do not train for the sake of it or because conditioning is our sport or hobby. We don’t do this because we want to look a certain way or to lose weight (these are consequences). We suffer during training to improve ourselves physically and psychologically and we measure those improvements on mountains, on frozen waterfalls, in burning buildings, facing cunning adversaries, on the battlefield, on the mat and in the cage. Because these tests occur outside the gym we don’t compete in the gym, we work hard, and we work together to make the sum greater than its individual parts. Cheating here won’t help us get where we are going so we enforce all quality all of the time.
“That’s our yardstick, how long is yours?”
If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is. I highly recommend reading the whole article, but if you don’t have time, here is the description for various exercises and what the guys at Gym Jones consider full reps:
Pull-ups: elbows must pass behind centerline of the body, if this happens the entire head rises above the bar, active shoulder position at bottom (as opposed to full dead hang)
Push-ups: chest touches the floor first, active shoulder and full extension at the top, body held as a solid plank, the hips do not move
Squats: thighs must be parallel to floor (at minimum) in the bottom position, full extension at the top of the movement
Lunges: trailing knee must “kiss” the ground but may not support any weight
Push-Press and Thruster: arms must lock out overhead, hips displace horizontally to the rear to initiate recovery of the weight, Thruster includes all attributes of a proper squat
Kettlebell or Dumbell Swing: weight must be raised higher than the head (arms about 45 degrees)
Box Jump: once established on the box the athlete must stand up completely, whether jumping for reps or max height taking steps to gain momentum is not permitted
Ball Slam: full extension at the top with hips forward, ball must actually be slammed (imagine that), catching it on the bounce is better style, rounded back not permitted during recovery
Burpees: includes a proper push-up, explosive finish (jump), overhead clap, and feet remain together throughout movement to ensure maximum hip displacement
Wall Ball: full squat required, ball must hit target
Dips: upper arm must be parallel to the floor (at minimum) in the bottom position, arms lock out in full extension at the top
I love it! If you exercise each week and find ways to ‘cheat’ the system so you can lift more weights or do more reps, you’re not getting any better or stronger. Practice perfect form every single time you’re in the gym. Practice perfect form with each repetition. Practice perfect form if you’re in a competition or trying to set personal bests. If you don’t remove all variables except weight or reps, you won’t really know how successful you really are. I know we have a few Crossfit readers on here; my concern with Crossfit is that due to the highly competitive nature of Crossfit, form is far too often sacrificed for faster times and more repetitions. If you are a Crossfit guy or girl, do everything you can to promote full repetitions at your gym and amongst your peers so you’re all on a level playing field (and you’re all safe! sacrificing form is the fastest way to get injured).
You know the famous 300 challenge? When actors and stuntmen attempted to complete it, there were spotters watching each repetition to make sure each was done completely. No three-quarter pull ups, no half-assed deadlifts, no fake box jumps. I have ten thousand times more respect for amguy doing complete squats with just the bar than I do for a guy with 400 lbs on his shoulders only going down a quarter of the way.
Do a full rep!