When I coached age-group swimming one of the biggest challenges was helping novices learn to balance stroke technique with turnover, especially during a race. It’s a natural competitive instinct to move as fast as possible once the gun goes off but for inefficient swimmers this results in looking something like a washing machine agitator in the water – lots of motion but limited forward progress from ‘spinning out’- meaning, a very short forward reach and backward finish. Hitting a faster time AND taking fewer strokes to do it is a true measure of progress since it means greater efficiency. Improvement comes from developing strength and endurance but if stroke execution remains inefficient ongoing improvement is finite!

The same concept can apply to weight training. Next to not using an appropriate amount of weight, the most common weight training error is failing to execute lifts with full range of motion – ‘spinning out’ while pushing or pulling. While you don’t necessarily look like a washing machine agitator, you limit muscular gains because you are not engaging ALL of your muscle. This risks hitting a plateau – just like continuing to swim using an inefficient stroke.

The good news is this is easy-peasy to correct. Watch yourself in a mirror to ensure full flexion and extension of each repetition you execute. This can mean taking a slight pause at both the bottom and top of your lifts. Take care to not hyperextend but ‘finish’ both ends of your repetitions. Also, it’s ok if you need to reduce the amount of weight you use. Doing it correctly with less weight leads to more gains than doing it incorrectly with more weight.

Like swimming, doing-it-wrong has a finite improvement range. Doing-it-right sets the stage for optimum, on-going benefit. And doesn’t make any part of your muscle feel left out!