I was reminded of a valuable lesson today during the heaviest squat session of my strength cycle. There is a time and a place to persevere and push through hard training or a heavy set. These sets are often what makes or breaks good lifters. However, there are also times to put the weight on the rack (or the floor) and either lower the load or move on to the next exercise.
Quality of movement will ALWAYS trump quantity. I found myself losing midline stability today while squatting and knew that I had one of a couple options.
- Persevere and finish my sets regardless of technique or form.
- Lower the weight or reps and finish the sets correctly
- Move on to the next exercise calling it a day for the squats.
What I was reminded of today was that my first option was in fact my worst option. Everyone admires a lifter who sucks it up and finishes his work regardless of fatigue, form, or their own health. These type of lifters are heralded as tough-skinned and hard to defeat. However, the problem with lifters who press through sets and reps regardless of the technical value of their work is that they may in fact be making things worse. The reality is that squats, snatches, cleans, or jerks that are not completed EXACTLY as they should will in fact create bad movement patterns AND expend energy on loading that will never transfer to bigger lifts. If I had continued to squat despite the rounding in my back, I would have fed a bad habit and would have squatted in such a way that I could never use that strength in an actual lift. It is more important for me to squat with perfect form as to mimic the snatch and clean such that my squats have perfect carryover to these lifts. That is after all the reason I subject myself to heavy squats, to create bigger numbers in the lifts. Literally, had I continued my squat session as it was written I would have wasted effort and energy on lifts that actually set me back instead of moving me forward.
My solution was to get the squats in but cut the doubles to singles to allow for spot on technique and quality reps. Was I happy about it? Absolutely not. Will my lifts be better enforced by that decision. Absolutely.
As a lifter you have to be smart and know when you technique is so poorly deteriorated that it is best to back off the gas pedal a little OR when it is still beneficial to push hard.