| September 30, 2021

Quality Over Quantity When It Comes to Exercise

It goes without saying that quality should be of utmost importance to any movement, especially when under resistance to be performed safely and effectively.

By Steven Fitzpatrick

Read time: 3 min.

It goes without saying that quality should be of utmost importance to any movement, especially when under resistance to be performed safely and effectively. Far too often, when exercising, you will find people with the mindset of simply getting the movement done for a specific amount of repetitions, rather than performing that said exercise for its actual purpose. There are many examples of that, and I would like to go over a few in this blog.

I love both the training and coaching side of fitness, however when it comes down to it, I mainly base my business around hands-on experience and teaching my clients through kinesthetic movement and teaching (every single small detail matters when training). Given the synergistic nature of the way our bodies are built, we are made in a way to perform a task by means of utilizing multiple muscles at once. When you really think about it, we are not meant to perform isolated movements to the point of creating and forcing muscular adaptations the way a gym replicates, so because of this, what tends to happen is we use the wrong muscles when isolating in order to finish a task.

The egotistical lifter will attempt to use too much weight in order to satisfy that reflection rather than slowing down and truly isolating the muscular function, such as a bicep curl. When performing this movement, the bicep is used to create flexion of the elbow, by shortening the angle between the hand and shoulder. However, if someone were to grab a weight that is too heavy for the bicep to maneuver independently, the body will consciously recruit other muscles to complete the task at hand. It will likely recruit muscles such as the deltoids, erectors, and create momentum by swinging the arms.

It is crucial to learn the important difference between distance of travel and range of motion of isolated muscles. Sure, you can bring the dumbbell or barbell from hips to shoulders in a sagittal angle and call it a “bicep curl” you might look good (only to yourself) by completing this task this way, you may even slightly stimulate the bicep to grow a bit, but this method is putting a big limiting factor on the biceps, when you could have simply lowered the weight and focused on factors such as time under tension and the true biomechanical range of motion of that muscle itself. It is important to know these things or to get a coach that can guide you to a better understanding of biomechanics.

If you were to place quantity before quality in the sport of powerlifting, eventually “muscle-ing” through your training will only get you so far, leveraging and physics will only allow for weaker muscles to compensate so much before they reach a point where they must be secondary to bigger groups, and by neglecting quality repetitions and humbling oneself with lighter weight to truly master the form, you will always be hitting a wall when trying to make those new record attempts at your personal bests. With powerlifting, we are trying to simultaneously recruit motor units and “turn on” all the muscles together, so if we neglect form, we will have breaks and more sticks in our movements, leading to even as far as bad injuries.

I always like to tell my athletes and clients that taking one step back will often get you farther; sometimes you need to step back, collect your thoughts, and come up with a plan, or in this case, zero in on your form, and mind-muscle connection.

When we fail something we don't get mad, upset, or beat ourselves up about it. The only person who fails is the one who decides to give up and throw in the towel. When you fail, instead be reflective, and figure out what went wrong or what was missing in your training, in your lift, or simply, your movement.

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