Sunday, July 31, 2022

The Cheating Principle in Strength Training - Anthony Ditillo


The Cheating Principle has been used widely throughout the world of weight training with the primary emphasis being placed on the field of bodybuilding. For the bodybuilder, this training is most helpful in the acquisition of increased muscular bulk through the use of heavier weights for repetitions, performed in a loose manner.

Long ago, the bodybuilders found that they could handle much heavier weights and for more repetitions if they loosened up their style of exercise performance. This led to greater poundages used in the conventional movements with the results  being increased ability to force out an intensity of motions per set, with the resultant muscle growth increasing in direct proportion to this increasing workload.

This method of training works because it increases your intensity and your training volume both at the same time. By increasing your repetitions through this principle, you not only increase the amount of workload, but the momentary intensity per set is also increased. This means that theoretically you are performing more work in a given length of time, and this in turn leads to increased muscular size and strength. This increased amount of repetition work also will aid in the acquisition of muscle density should you follow a strict diet while using this method of training. 

While it would appear that primarily the bodybuilder would benefit from this method of exercise style, the Olympic lifter and Powerlifter also use this principle, whether they realize and admit this or not. The Olympic lifter uses cheating movements, by way of Jerks from the Rack, Shrug Pulls, High Pulls, Jerk Drives, Partial Front and Partial Back Squats. The powerlifter uses such movements as Partials in the Power Rack, the Bent Legged Deadlift, Partial Squats and the Power Squat. Deadlifts using a hopper device, such as the old-timers during the 1930's and 40's used will also aid the powerlifter in gaining more strength.

The reasons why the cheating principle works are varied and many. To fully understand this methodology, we must look over what is actually taking place while using this type of training. In any lifting movement, there is a weak point which we call the "sticking point." This is a point where leverage is at its weakest influence during the lift and it is at this point where we actually fail with limit attempts or forced (mentally) repetitions. What we do with the cheating principle is try to overcome this weak point by adding momentum with our bodyweight or adjacent muscle groups to help us overcome this point of physical weakness. 

To further illustrate my point, let us use the Cheating Curl as an example. Most bodybuilders have used this method of training during their arm work whether they want to or not. This is usually because their training enthusiasm overrules their momentary physical capacity. Thus, during the end of a series of repetitions, they will "swing" a bit, to aid in further repetition performance. Or else, they will use a heavier weight than they can handle correctly, and perform the entire set with a swinging method of repetition. They will sometimes combine both these movements during the course of a workout for a particular body part, or they will use one type on one day and another type on another training day. Either way, they will use a "loose" style of exercise to gain in performing more repetitions per set, or heavier weights for each set of repetitions, or both. And their end result is increased muscle growth and strength.

The Olympic lifter will usually perform many sets of Jerks from the Rack with very heavy weights, until he can "drive" the bar past head level, without being able to lock it out. This will increase his Clean & Jerk proficiency, since the key to a heavy Clean & Jerk is outstanding leg strength and these heavy "jerk drives" will make use of the power potential of the frontal thigh. Partial Front Squats will also increase the strength of these thigh extension muscles so that the drive to jerk the bar to arms' length will go unhampered.

The Olympic lifter will also regularly make use of the various pulls in the power rack to fully work and develop an explosive second pull, so necessary in the squat clean position. Without an explosive second pull, a heavy squat clean becomes almost impossible and without a heavy squat clean there can be no heavy Clean & Jerk. So, many, many sets of High Pulls, Shrug Pulls, and Shrugs are in order. The Shrug Pull, with much heavier weight than you can squat clean will develop your ability to complete the extension in your second pull position. This will give you added impetus to pull yourself under the bar and fix it at the shoulders. Shrugs, if done explosively, will aid in fully developing your trapezius strength and the end result is a complete extension during your top pull.

The Olympic lifter also makes use of this principle when doing his Front Squats with heavy weight. Every time he loosens up on his performance style to grind out an extra rep, he is using this principle. Every time he performs repetitions with heavier weights than he can handle for full repetitions he is using this principle. Every time he combines either or both of these methods of cheating he is giving mute testimony as to the effectiveness and necessity of this training principle.

Finally, we come to the Powerlifter. Although the rules governing  the performance of the three currently accepted powerlifts would seem to serve the purpose of regulating the exercise style of these lifting movements, nothing could be further from the truth. First of all, the Power Squat makes use of this cheating principle, since it throws most of the stress of the heavier poundages onto the hips and lower back. It does not restrict the performance of the lift on the muscles of the frontal thigh alone, which theoretically, should be of main consideration when deciphering leg strength. Also, the lower bar placement on the upper back also aids in heavier weight performance, since this aids the lift in being performed with hip and lower back strength in comparison to the frontal thigh.

The Bench Press, as it is performed today is also a cheating movement. Although the bar is rested momentarily on the chest, it is also "sunk" into the thorax somewhat, with the advantage here being a greater ability to explode when beginning the big push. The placement of the bar excessively low on the chest (below the pectorals) also aids in driving heavier weights to the lockout position as compared to benching to the upper chest or neck, as some bodybuilders perform. If we were really interested in deciding the triceps, pectoral and deltoid strength of an athlete, the Incline Press with a pause at the chest, or the Steep Seated Incline Military Press would be a better choice.

Finally, I wish to make it clear that I am not criticizing the way the three power lifts are performed in competition today. What I am trying to do is show you that even in strict competition, a form of "cheating" is taking place, to enable us to reach our physical potentials.

In training, the Cheating Principle makes itself felt in many ways. When the powerlifter does partial squats, he is using the cheating principle. When we do "bouncing" bench presses we are using the cheating principle. This can be so that more repetitions can be done per set, or heavier weight can be handled for limit attempts. Either or both will make us harder, denser, and a lot stronger.

By properly combining the ways of using this principle in your regular exercise performance, you can simultaneously add to your training volume and your training intensity per set. Therefore, be sure you know how to use it properly for best results. 

It is possible, by using the Cheating Principle, to greatly intensify your workouts. this means you will be doing harder work for each set. This will take place whether or not you are training for power, lifting strength or pure bodybuilding. To be sure, the Cheating Principle will enable you to get more work in less time. The work will also be done with heavier weights, depending upon your method of operation. 

For increasing your lifting strength, your merely "overload" the muscles with partial, assistance movements, with much heavier weights and choose movements which closely approximate the actual lifts used in competition. The heavy overload pulling movements, which I briefly touched on a while back, would fall into this category. Heavy High Pulls, Shrug Pulls, Shrugs, etc., will respond to this cheating method, since they are in themselves cheating movements, even though we may be cognizant of correct lifting style, while executing them in our training. Naturally the repetitions should be kept rather low, mostly doing doubles and triples because in this situation we are trying to build "useful" muscular strength. To use light weights on these movements would be a waste of time for the Olympic lifter.

Again, I repeat, the Partial Front Squats and Back Squats, done in Olympic lifting style (bar held on traps, thighs folding over completely on calf in the bottom position) should be used regularly when attempting to increase thigh strength and squat cleaning proficiency. 

Leg work, such as described, should be done at least twice per week, possibly three times if the trainee wants one "light" day in between two heavier ones.

The pulling movements should also be done either two or three times weekly, on opposite training days. It depends on whether you wish to train four or six times per week.

Finally, as an Olympic lifter you would not benefit from using the "forced repetitions" of cheating movements, done at the end of each set in which the beginning repetitions were done "correctly." What the Olympic lifter wants to do is merely incorporate muscle group movements, in themselves.

For the Powerlifter, the situation is somewhat different. His type of competitive lifts demand explosive, yet restrained, grinding strength. He could benefit by two types of "cheating" utilization in his training. First of all, he can benefit greatly by doing all repetitions possible for each and every chosen set of heavy and medium-heavy weights. To do this "cheating forced rep" type of training with the lighter workloads would be a waste of time for the powerlifter. He does not need blown up muscles, such as the bodybuilder does. But he can benefit from forcing, even if this means a "loosening" of style, for each set of heavier weights. This will enable him to handle heavier weights for more repetitions and the end result will be an increased capacity for heavier work. it will also alleviate any fears of grinding out heavy weights in competition, since he will be using heavy weights and really "forcing" reps in each and every set.

The powerlifter will also need to specialize on the "cheating" muscle group movements in which he uses additional muscle groups to lift heavier weights in the chosen movements he will be competing in. He will have to learn to use his hips and glute muscles as well as his thighs to squat with maximum poundages. He will have to learn to use not only his lower back, but also his legs, in order to register heavier and heavier in the deadlift. 

For the Bench Press, he will have to use all the allowable techniques which re legal in competition, in order to handle the heaviest weight he is capable of. 

A good idea would be to use the stricter style of the power three twice per week, and the competitive style twice per seek, so that both are trained sufficiently for best results. The Stiff Legged Deadlift, the Olympic Back Squat, and the Bench Press to Upper Chest (close to neck) would be the assistance isolation (more on that later) movements, and the style used in competition would be the muscle group "cheating" style. Both are necessary to continued progress and continued gains. 

For the Bodybuilder and All-Around Strength trainee, the road is wide open for using the Cheating Principle in your training. No matter what movement you decide to get stronger on, you can greatly intensify your efforts if you strive to do a few "loosely performed" repetitions at the end of each of your sets. It would be more effective if you persisted in using this system with the heaviest poundages, for the most part, unless you are truly trying to increase muscular mass as an end in itself. There is a difference between the loosely performed repetitions and the "burns" we had talked about earlier in a previous article. The burns are  usually done at the end of a set of medium to medium-heavy resistance, as a way of stimulating more muscle fibers. Also, their performance is different in that they are only partial movements done at the end of a set, done in a looser style. There may seem to be a similarity between the two, but practice both and you will definitely notice the difference.

For sheer muscle gains I would recommend the method of using extra repetitions, done loosely, at the end of every "normal set," with the weight being medium to medium-heavy. You want to be able to really control the weight and this will not be easy if the poundages are too heavy. This is because you want to do more repetitions than the other lifters do. This is necessary for increased muscle stimulation, however.

For a combination of muscle size increase and overall power, I would recommend that from time to time, both styles of cheating be employed so that you can gain from both training methods. By combining both exercise styles, you will be amazed at how fast your muscles respond with greater size and power. Of course, such a condition will eventually lead to bodyweight gain, so this would be suitable for only those who are not restricted to a particular weight class in competition. However, it is effective! 

The only drawback to such training lies within the egos and the morals of the trainees who utilize it. The only thing wrong with the Cheating Principle lies within the name we use to govern its meaning and usage. To use the cheating method to enable you to handle more and more weight in the stricter movements is quite all right to do. To use it to gain more strength in the competition lifts is quite all right also. However, it may cause a trainee to forget about lifting style, depending on his "new found" power to carry him through. This would be a mistake, for Olympic lifting requires both speed and technique as well as usable power for success, to depend on more strength, no matter how explosive it may be, is quite a mistake.

For the powerlifter, to depend on this system without further usage of stricter movements would develop both weak links in the chain of command and a tendency to lose all semblance of form when in competition. You cannot do the three power lifts without having complete control of the bar at all times. The motor pathways for competent performance must be regularly strengthened for continued lifting success. Also, the weak links, such as the pectorals, frontal thighs, and lower back will be neglected if only forced repetition cheating movements are solely performed. You must combine both for best results.

The all-around trainee would also be making a mistake in thinking this system is an end in itself. In doing so, he would lose contact with reality of his true useable strength. Bouncing Bench Presses, Presses done with an exaggerated back arch, and Half Squats called Full Squats would be the end result of not using any "psyche control" over the Cheating Principle. The end result would be ridiculous! 

As I mentioned earlier, the only thing wrong with the Cheating Principle is its name. Use it and don't abuse it for best results. 

Enjoy Your Lifting! 

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