Shall I Twist Your Arm . . . (Part 2)

“That he did,” I said, annoyed. “The wisecrack I could have done without. What I wanted to know is if you saw the sloppy form, the struggle to get the dumbbells up, and how quickly the set was done.”

“I’m sorry.” 

“There is nothing to be sorry about. Bodybuilding is not a game. If you want to transform your physique, you need to take what I am teaching more seriously.” 


“If you persist in speaking as opposed to listening, you will learn nothing.” 


I know she probably thought I was miffed with her because she had teased about the guy lifting more than me. I could have cared less that he lifted more weights. I needed her to let me know if she understood what we were working on, and more importantly why I had her lifting that way.

She was doing overhead shoulder presses on a flat bench without any back support. I explained to her that there are myriad of ways to make a muscle grow. “You can lift heavy as the individual we just watched or you can make the muscle work the way I am teaching you.” 

I wanted her to understand that lifting heavy is not a smart way to grow a muscle if the form is sloppy. If she couldn’t control the weight she was lifting, the only surefire thing that would result from that approach was getting injured.

I instructed her to lift the dumbbells to her ears, and when she pressed overhead, to make sure she didn’t lockout, to keep tension on the deltoids. She scoffed when I told her to start with 5 pounds, and reached for the ten-pound dumbbells. She struggled and could not even complete five reps. She looked at me dejectedly before going to get the 5 pounds dumbbells.

“Now you understand how the guy looked trying to press 95 pounds. Similar to you, he did not have control of the weight. Without control, you cannot make the muscle work. Perhaps he’s working on maximal strength, but you and I are working on hypertrophy.”

I had her do 4 sets. The first was 20 reps. The second and third sets, she increased the weight to 8 pounds, and dropped the reps to 10. The final set was done using her original weight, but only doing 15 reps.  

“I can’t believe that was so hard.” 


“I lift more weights than that.” 

“But not for this body part. Also with no back support, your shoulders had to do most of the work. We made all three heads of the deltoids work. Although there are always synergistic activities during shoulder movements, we try to limit their involvement.”

“I’m beginning to understand. The guy could not have lifted that much weight if his back wasn’t supported.” 

“Exactly. If I wanted to impinge my shoulder. Show-off in the gym. I too would lift 95 pounds. What would be the purpose though? I want you to always weigh the risk versus the reward . . .