Why can some pro’s use terrible form and still look awesome?
I had a question for you the next time you answer questions from fans.
As a long time bodybuilding fan and especially with social media and YouTube making it easier and easier to watch top bodybuilders train, I have been struck by how almost universally you see top bodybuilders using bad form on exercises: swinging weights, not doing full range of motion etc. From Ronnie Coleman to Victor Martinez, from Jay Cutler to Phil Heath. Often their form using heavy weights goes against everything we are typically taught, however these are the best of the best! Obviously it’s working for them. What’s your opinion?
Thanks for all the great free info Ron.
This is a good question, and one I have addressed in the past. But since it continues to come up, I will do my best to give all my theories and observations.
First off, let’s be clear. Not all pro bodybuilders use sloppy form. I have watched many train, and guys like Dorian, Jose Raymond, Evan Centopani, and Hide Yamagishi are among those I saw who had very good form. There have been many others too, those are just the ones that popped into my head. But you are correct in noting that many do use pretty bad form. Why? Simply because they can.
What I mean by that is, they can train with bad form or good form and still get great results, and bad form is easier, generally speaking. Looser form also allows the use of heavier weights, and we all have an ego. It feels better to press 180-pound dumbbells than it does a pair of 100’s.
What I have noticed over the past 27 years in gyms is this. There are some rare people who were born with extraordinary genetics for building muscle mass. Sometimes they are already fairly big even before they start training, sometimes not. But all these guys with the very rare genetics for muscle growth simply expand at a ridiculous rate once they start training. They will often make better gains in just their first year of training that most men will take ten or more years to achieve. And a year or two after that, they are bigger than 95% of aspiring bodybuilders will ever be.
Do drugs factor into the equation? Of course they do. But as I have said many times before, the proper genetics must be in place first. Without them, there is a pretty mediocre limit to how large a man can get no matter how many drugs he uses or for how long. This fact, and it is a fact, is one that’s ignored or contested by many who insist on believing that excessive drug regimens can overcome average genetics. It’s just not true. When you take a man with those rare, gifted genetics and then put him on drugs, boom! You get something that looks straight out of Marvel Comics.
But back to the question about how exercise form factors into that. If a man has the right genetics and the muscle-building drugs on his side, pretty much any type of weight training will elicit fantastic results. I personally believe myostatin deficiency plays a very significant role in all this. You’ve probably seen photos of the Belgian Blue bulls and the Bully Whip dogs that have the genetic deficiency of lacking the myostatin gene. Without that gene that limits skeletal muscle growth, their muscles grow to outrageous proportions. And obviously, those bulls and dogs aren’t working out with weights for years to look like that. I suspect many elite bodybuilders have a lesser form of myostatin deficiency. They aren’t enormous naturally without training, but once they do embark on a program of regular weight training, their muscles grow far past the size that a normal man’s is capable of, again, even with steroids, GH, and insulin being used.
So we have established that the men who become pro bodybuilders all have rare genetics that are a lot more favorable for developing extreme muscle mass. I believe that as long as they stimulate their muscles with sufficient resistance, they will grow, and grow, and grow.
It should also be noted that often even when you are seeing what appears to the observer to be ‘sloppy’ form, the bodybuilder is still stimulating the target muscle. They have developed a powerful ‘mind-muscle connection,’ and can instinctively engage the target muscle to contract and stretch even when it would seem to be unlikely given their technique. If you watch these training videos, you will notice that the target muscle does become increasingly larger and ‘pumped’ as the workouts go on. That would not be happening if the muscle wasn’t being worked.
Another thing I must point out because it would never be known otherwise, is that many times the shortened ranges of motion you often see are used because the bodybuilder has suffered an injury in the past that makes it unwise if not outright foolish to do so. For example, if a man has torn his triceps or has issues with elbow inflammation in general, he should not lock out any type of pressing or extension movement. If a man has shoulder problems, often going into a full stretch on any type of press will aggravate the condition. These are just a couple examples. The bottom line here is that you shouldn’t automatically assume that what you are seeing and perceiving as ‘bad form’ really is that. Sometimes it’s actually a bodybuilder being smart and training safer given his own particular circumstances that you have no inkling about.
Now for the part where we talk about how this applies to you, the person with average or perhaps slightly above-average genetics. In all likelihood, you will need to use better form, a stricter style, to properly work your muscles and stimulate growth. I see guys using bad form every day in the gym, and most of them never grow and have very, very mediocre builds. If you use stricter form, and only loosen it up toward the end of a set after you’ve completed most of your reps in good form, you stand a much better chance or at least optimizing whatever genetic potential you do have.
It’s not fair, right? Your individual genetic traits are neither fair nor unfair, they are merely the result of traits that have been passed on to you by your parents, their parents, and so on, going back hundreds and thousands of generations. Some people are tall, some are short. Some are very attractive, others are hideously ugly. It is what it is. You can’t change your height, and you can’t change your looks (without cosmetic surgery at least). You can change your body with weight training. We don’t all have the same genetic potential for building physiques that are huge with great shape, structure, and symmetry. But we all have the ability to train hard and eat well on a consistent basis and improve the way our bodies look. As I’ve said before, if you work hard enough and long enough, you are going to look very good eventually. You won’t look like a pro bodybuilder, just like most golf enthusiasts will never play as well as the PGA pros. But you will look better and better as the months and years go by.
To wrap it up, don’t worry too much about how the pro’s train. They were meant to look the way they do almost the way a giraffe was meant to be tall and a hippo was meant to be fat. Endeavor to train as well as you can, and your results will reflect your efforts.