Sunday, June 26, 2022

Should You Cheat in Your Exercises? - Samuel Homola (1968)

Here's another basic article from the past dealing with one of the questions most new guys, and some not-so-new guys have at times in their training. There are a lot of different answers to this question, a lot of different forms of "cheating" in various ways and for different reasons.

And hey, there's some great photos with the article too.  

It's also interesting to note the difference during that time in the Weider and the York courses. York, once the slightly more advanced stage is reached and the foundation is in place, directs the lifter to more Olympic lifting. Weider, after the basic courses, directs the lifter to a more power-lifting focus with cheating and partial movements allowing for the use of very heavy weights.  Perhaps both have something of value to offer us if we're willing to dig it out of some of these older articles and books!  

The curl, for biceps development, is shown here in three positions.
Left: a strict curl with barbell that involves predominantly the biceps.
Center: a cheating curl that involves the biceps along with the stronger muscles of the legs and lower back. 
Right: a strict one arm curl devoid of any cheating action. 

Whenever a bodybuilder "cheats" in a barbell or dumbbell exercise, he uses overall body motion to aid muscular contraction in propelling the weight through a completed repetition. 

In curls, for example, a swinging motion may be used in beginning each curl in order to build momentum. The primary object of curls for bodybuilding purposes is to develop the biceps, but other muscles are also involved. The more cheating the individual does, the more help the biceps get from other muscles. The same is true in almost any exercise.

In some exercises, the barbell may be bounced off the floor in order to achieve momentum in starting a repetition. A repetition is sometimes completed by dipping the body suddenly. There are many ways to cheat in the various exercises. Some are beneficial but most are not. 

A lazy bodybuilder who attempts to reduce his work load by cheating to relieve the resistance of a light exercise is wasting his time. But whenever he can "cheat" purposefully and scientifically in order to use a heavier weight occasionally, he can benefit from the effort. 

A Little Cheating Can Be Beneficial in Heavy Exercises 

There are some bodybuilders who say that all cheating should be eliminated in weight training for bodybuilding purposes. There are others who maintain that all exercises should be heavy cheating exercises, as in weightlifting. Actually, both methods of training should probably be used for development of all-around size and strength. 

Whether you cheat or not should depend largely upon the muscles you're exercising and the exercise you're doing. Whenever you're using a very heavy weight in a basic exercise, it's practically impossible not to cheat just a little, since recruitment of supporting muscles may be necessary to perform the exercise. But whenever you want to isolate the action of a muscle with a specialized exercise, as in triceps presses, for example, you would defeat the purpose of the exercise by cheating. 

Don't Cheat Excessively!

If you want to cheat in some of your exercises, you must be careful not to cheat too much. Cheating in any exercise becomes excessive when jerky or exaggerated movements relieve the muscles of resistance. When you cheat too much in a curl, for example, the swinging motion may be so excessive that momentum rather than muscular contraction completes the repetition. And except in very heavy exercises, you probably shouldn't cheat in every repetition. 

A good procedure to follow in combining strict movements with cheating movements in your basic exercises is to attempt to do each exercise with as little cheating as possible for several repetitions, and then cheat only very little (without cheating excessively) to complete a couple more reps. 

This means that if you want to do 8 repetitions in an exercise, you should choose a weight that's heavy enough to require a maximum effort in completing at least 6 correctly performed strict reps two additional reps squeezed out by cheating a little. This will assure continued progress and maximum benefit in the use of progressive resistance exercise.

When you are using an unusually heavy weight in a special exercise in order to strengthen your tendons, to build power, or to break your muscles out of a rut, you may cheat in every repetition, provided you don't jerk the bar or dip your body in order to take the load off the muscles you're trying to develop. You should never train solely on cheating exercises, however, since this may result in failure to develop your muscles fully and evenly. You might also injure yourself if you use such heavy weights that you must convert each repetition to a weightlifting feat.

In any event, while you should avoid cheating excessively, you might deprive yourself of some of the benefits of weight training if you don't cheat a little in some of your exercises. 

For example, if you always do your curls while backed-up against a wall, you might develop a good biceps, but you may fail to develop the all-around strength that comes from more "natural" curls that employ a little overall body movement. Furthermore, you may fail to develop the coordination you need to enlist the aid of supporting muscles whenever you use your biceps in everyday labors. 

A little overall body movement in a heavy exercise will also eliminate the strain that starting and stopping an exercise may have on joints tendons.

One arm rowing that uses a swinging impetus
and body action to perform the exercise. 
Jack Delinger. 

A strict form of one arm rowing
stressing action to the upper back
shoulder and arm.
John Grimek. 

Rowing with both hands, allowing
the chest to meet the upcoming bar
by bending the legs. 
Who Is This Guy? 
Comments section if you know.
I do not. 
There is also a photo of him 
in the middle of the top three there. 

Avoid Overspecialization 

While you should be careful not to cheat too much or too often in your basic exercises, you should also try to avoid specializing on exercises that isolate the action of one muscle group. 

There are some bodybuilders who limit their training to such exercises as triceps presses, concentration curls, leg extension, leg curls, and so on, in order to exercise one muscle at a time and to eliminate cheating. 

Very often, however, the physiques of these men lack the solid symmetry of a bodybuilder who trains with such basic exercises as barbell presses and squats, and an overdevelopment of these isolated muscle groups tends to create the unnatural look that some people refer to as the "monster look."

You should, of course, include specialized exercises in your training as you become more advanced. But you should use them in a balanced program that includes the use of basic exercises for the major muscle groups. You may cheat a little in the basic exercises, but you shouldn't cheat in the specialized exercises. 

I occasionally see a thin looking bodybuilder who looks as if a plastic surgeon has transplanted someone else's triceps on the back of his upper arm. The thin neck, the underdeveloped chest, and the bony deltoids are a dead giveaway that the individual's favorite exercise is a form of triceps press. Regular presses, or a little weightlifting (ah-ha!) would greatly improve the appearance of such bodybuilders. 

There are some bodybuilders who believe that the more weight they use in each exercise, the sooner they'll "reach the top." But those who consistently use so much weight that they have to cheat excessively in every exercise in every workout rarely look much better than the average weight lifter. The reason for this is that they develop lifting skills (just as weightlifters do) that fail to tax their muscles through a full range of movement. These bodybuilders are usually very strong but their muscles lack the contours and the fullness of muscles that have been fully developed against resistance in both extension and contraction. 

How to "Cheat" Correctly

Whenever you do cheat a little in your exercises, you should NEVER let the weight fall freely at any point during the exercise, and you should NEVER begin the exercise by jerking the weight up.

Maintain control over the weight at all times. Keep an even tension on the muscles being exercised -- during extension as well as during contraction. A little overall body movement is all right if the muscles are exercised through a full range of movement and the exercise is performed smoothly without transferring the load to supporting muscles. 

If you want to bounce the weight a little in certain exercises in order to build little momentum, limit the bounce to only an inch or two. 

In bench presses, for example, bouncing the bar off the chest can make a great deal of difference in the amount of weight you use, and if it's done correctly, there's no danger of strain or injury.

Such cheating requires skill ac-


Such cheating requires skill acquired by practice, however, and it should not be attempted by the beginner.

"Cheating" with a Power Rack

Practically every exercise has "weak points" that can be bypassed with a small amount of cheating. Most if the time, this weakness is evident when a repetition must be started with the joints fully extended or fully flexed. In curls, begin the exercise with a slight swing that permits the use of a heavier weight by bypassing the weakness of a fully extended arm. And in full squats, a little bounce at the bottom of the squat is sometimes necessary in order to return to an erect standing position.

Many advanced bodybuilders now use a power rack in order to be able to start each repetition with a mechanical advantage, thus "cheating" by bypassing the starting weakness of muscles and joints that are fully flexed and extended. Presses, squats, and deadlifts, for example, usually begin from supporting pins that have been placed high enough to eliminate the first half of the movement. 

No bodybuilder should habitually bypass the weak portions of a muscular contraction by cheating or using a power rack, however, since this may leave a gap in his development. Failure to exercise the muscles in complete extension and contraction may also contribute to loss of flexibility. Power rack exercises, like cheating exercises, should be used only in conjunction with exercises that use the muscles through a full range of motion. 

Cheating in Specific Exercises

If you do want to cheat occasionally in some of your exercises, you must observe certain rules -- just s you do when your do your exercises in strict fashion.

Follow the instructions in performing the basic exercises described below. Use similar techniques in other exercises that permit occasional cheating.

Bench Press: 

As you know, strict fashion in bench presses requires that you keep your buttocks on the bench, your feet flat on the floor, and then pause with the bar on the chest before beginning the press. When you "cheat," you break all of these rules in order to handle a greater amount of weight.

Have two spotters lift the barbell up so that you can grasp it at arm's length over your chest. Lower the weight slowly until it's just a couple of inches above your chest. Then let the weight drop to your chest just enough to get a slight bounce so that you can begin the press with a little momentum. Just as you begin the press, lift your buttocks up from the bench by pressing your feet against the floor. This will permit more power-contraction of the pectoralis major muscles, and it'll enlist the aid of the latissimus dorsi muscles.

Don't ever let the bar fall freely to your chest. Even when you bounce the bar off your chest, you should have absolute control of the weight.

Whenever you're using as much weight as you can handle for only one or two repetitions, have the spotters follow the bar up with their hands just beneath the ends of the bar. If the bar should roll from your grasp, your spotters must catch the bar immediately in order to protect you from injury.

Barbell Curl: 

When you want to "cheat" purposely in curls, use the following technique. With your elbows slightly bent while the weight is down at arm's length in front, lean forward slightly and then start the bar up with a swing by leaning backward a little. Keeps your knees bent during the exercise in order to cushion the shock of starting and stopping each repetition. When the barbell is lowered to starting position, lean forward a little to avoid placing an abrupt jerk on your arms.

Bentover Rowing: 

In this exercise you should keep your back flat and your knees bent at all times. Pull the weight up toward the bottom of your rib cage and then dip your body down in order to touch your chest to the bar. Lower the weight to the floor slowly. 

Upright Rowing

Stand erect with the barbell down at arm's length in front, your elbows slightly bent. Lean forward a little and then start the weight up by leaning backward a little as you begin your pull. Take advantage of the momentum by continuing the pull until the bar touches your neck. When the weight is lowered to starting position, lean forward a little and bend your knees in order to cushion the weight's return to arm's length. Don't let the weight drop freely, and don't let your arms straighten out completely until the weight has come to a stop.

Don't Forget! 

Cheating exercises should be used only in conjunction with exercises that place an even tension on the muscles through a full range of movement, both in extension and contraction. Don't cheat so much that jerky movements relieve the muscles of resistance. And don't ever let the weight fall freely under the pull of gravity. The shock of starting and stopping each repetition in a heavy cheating exercise can be cushioned with overall body movement and partially flexed joints. 

Enjoy Your Lifting!  



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