Walk into any gym in America and you’ll see at least 2 or 3 people throwing weight around, rather than actually controlling whatever apparatus they happen to be using. This practice of using momentum as a means to build muscle is common, but very ineffective. What’s more, it greatly decreases the ability of the lifter to build the kind of muscle he wants. He’s literally throwing control away and leaving development to chance. This makes achieving an aesthetic physique, nearly impossible. For unless there is a genetic gift lying within a particular muscle group, utilizing momentum is always a mistake when attempting to build size.
Arm training is one area where momentum is often abused. Limbs, in general, both legs and arms, are truly a target for inflated egos and an overriding goal to get big fast! But the arms are particularly vulnerable to both injury and improper development as a result of momentum. Larger muscle groups like legs and back can take the abuse, but it seems that when it comes to building a foundation of arm structure and shape, a lifter often only gets one chance to create a basic matrix that is aesthetic and correct. Blow that, and you’ll be doing a lot of clean up work later on.
Novice lifters are consumed with visions of enormous arms. Believing that hoisting the heavy weights will achieve this goal is common. However, and unfortunately, throwing big weight around does little to improve the physique.
Olympic weightlifting is evidence of this. While it’s a sport that demands great physical strength, and some of that strength creates a certain amount of size and explosive ability, it’s also a sport that realizes a ton of injuries and an abbreviated length of career. Strength training, when done properly, with mind on form and function, means that longevity is inherent. So if you don’t want a two year window in which to work out, learning that momentum isn’t the way to go about development is key.
Performing Repetitions the Correct Way
Performing repetitions correctly is key to building the kind of arms you want. And unlike legs, you can’t do set after set after set to accomplish your goals with arms. They are a smaller muscle group and exhaust more rapidly. That means overtraining can be a quick consequence of too much volume, weight or hoisting.
Arms, above all, need isolative exercises that focus on developing a set of muscle fibers that are relatively short in length. The range of motion is much shorter than it is in leg training or back training. Therefore, it’s crucial to keep isolation as your main goal. But one reason momentum is actually preferred, is because isolation in arm training can often be painful to some. This pain creates a kind of fear to continue on with isolation-based sets. Defaulting to momentum happens as a result of this pain.
Ironically, muscle recruitment is at its highest during this painful period toward the end of a set. And many lifters either stop, pause, or default to momentum during this period of time. However, it is during this time, when going beyond the normal pain threshold is there for the taking, that major gains could have been made and are not.
Stopping, is almost better than using momentum, unless momentum is a kind of controlled movement. For example, using an arm blaster that isolates the arm, can partner with momentum in some cases, to move through this pain threshold and maximize muscle recruitment. Using the legs to slightly help lift the weight, while the biceps are isolated, can be acceptable. The arms are not compromised by the possibility of injury, yet are moving through an important pain threshold.
One way to combat the urge to use momentum is to use drop sets. Drop sets are highly effective when utilized for the purpose of staving off momentum, because they just take the edge off the burn, yet still keep the lifter engaged during the period of the highest muscle recruitment. The point is to achieve maximum contraction and exhaustion, without compromising isolation, before stopping a set. If drop sets help you to do this, they are highly useful.
Tips to avoiding doing the wrong thing:
Shelve Your Ego – Don’t get so consumed with your vision of gigantic arms that you fail to see what’s best for you aesthetically and structurally. Everyone wants to be the “strong guy” in the gym, but it isn’t about bravado, it’s about results and steady progress. Anyone who thinks that building great muscle overnight is a possibility is just setting themselves up for misery, unnecessary competition with people beyond their own level, and the possibility of injury.
Slow it Down – Don’t be in a hurry to throw weight up, or complete a set in less than 10 seconds! Executing an exercise is about many things. It’s about control, isolation, creating strength through intensity, and fashioning size over time.
Use Lighter Weight – Momentum occurs sometimes by default because too much weight is used in a given set. The rule of thumb should be that you lift 85% of your maximum for 8 reps. 80% of your maximum weight for 10 reps and so on. Only increase weight when you think you’ve developed a tolerance to your current weights. Don’t just boost them arbitrarily so that you keep up with your workout partner or because someone else is lifting heavier than you. It’s not about where you are, it’s about where you’re going!
Forget Goals and Train for Capacity – As odd as it may seem, you must not ever really train, from day to day, with goals in mind as much as capacity. Your daily capacity changes. Just because you were at a particular weight last week, doesn’t mean that you’ll continue on that path this week. Capacity is what dictates weight and intensity, not your goals. If you remember to train by the month and year with goals in mind and by day and week with capacity in mind, you’ll be on the right track. Big picture is important, but each day is a small picture of your capabilities. Don’t confuse the two! Momentum is NOT the answer to keeping in line with your goals.
Dane Fletcher is the world-wide authority on bodybuilding and steroids. He has coached countless athletes all over the world. To read more of his work, please visit either www.BodybuildingToday.com or www.SteroidsToday.com