To Cheat Or Not To Cheat

cheat curls

I think a lot of weight trainers are very confused when it comes to weight training form and technique. There are two schools of thought on the subject of weight lifting form and technique.

Depending on who you talk to, some say it may be ok to cheat on certain exercises while others will say you should be in strict form all the time.

Is it ok to cheat on your weight training exercises?

I think this is where a lot of the confusion comes in when someone wants to loosen up their form on certain exercises.

I mean, it’s easy to see the confusion since most aspiring trainers can get easily misguided with some of the information that’s posted in the magazines and on the internet.

I vividly remember trying to emulate Arnold and Bertil Fox’s training style when I was younger, using very heavy poundages and cheating on just about every exercise I attempted and on every set!

My training buddy and I at the time would cheat on just about every exercise we did in order to lift more weight. The only thing that I managed to do was cheat myself out of some possible gains and injuring myself.

However, after I learned the proper way to execute my lifts and “re-programming” my brain and body for weight training, I found that cheating on certain lifts can be beneficial. Now, there is a proper way to “cheat” and how to get the most from this kind of training. These days, I rarely cheat on my lifts but when I do, it’s near the end of my training cycle using heavier than normal weight and only on certain lifts.

What benefit is there to cheating? The thing you have to remember about cheating is that it is only there to help you over that “little hump” or sticking point. It’s usually when you are on the way up from a lift such as the mid way point of a bench press or barbell curl. The benefit of using a little cheat is that it helps add a little bit more intensity to your routine and helping your get the weight up using your target muscles. This is no way meant to be a crutch and you should never allow your self to use this technique in this way.

Is there a proper way to cheat? Yes, there is and most seasoned weight trainers will periodically use this type of style in their programs. However, this is a technique for more advanced trainers and one that I would never recommend to a beginner to weight training.

Alright, how can cheating be beneficial to training when everyone tells you that you must be in strict form to perform a weight training exercise?

Please remember that I am a huge advocate on performing your exercises in the strictest manner possible but...There are certain times in your training cycle that may require you to loosen up your form.

The first thing that you must understand is that all weight trainers must have the correct form in place and your technique must be down to a science, otherwise, cheating will not work and your going to injure yourself. Your weight training movements must be correct at all times during the lift and only then, can you allow yourself to cheat. I know, it sounds a little confusing but this is a must.

Only after you’ve mastered the form and technique of your weight training exercises can you even begin to think about using the “cheating principle” in your programs.

If you’re a beginner who is just starting out, forget about cheating. However, if you feel that your form and technique are down to a science, it may be time to take your body a little further.

The most important thing you must know about this type of weight training is that you can only cheat on certain exercises, on certain sets, and on certain reps. Let’s take the bench press for example. Let’s assume the following progression is involved:

• Warm up set 1 x 20 repetitions;
• Set one: 1 x 10 repetitions;
• Set two: 1 x 8 repetitions;
• Set three: 1 x 6 repetitions;
• Set four: 1 x 6 repetitions.

In order to effectively use the cheating principle, you will perform the first three sets in super strict form. That is, you will not be using any cheating at all. However, on the last set, you will be using near 80% to 85% of your maximum lift and on the last two repetitions of your set, you will allow yourself to cheat.

Now, I’m not talking about arching your back at a 90 degree angle or letting the weight bounce of your chest, half way through the movement. I’m talking about allowing yourself a slight arch in your back when the weight is coming up. To effectively cheat with this lift, you will really bring your back into the bench, puff your chest outwards and slightly arch your back an inch or so off the bench.

The only exercises you should allow your self to cheat is on compound lifts such as the bench press, military press, rows, barbell curls, and some presses. The only time you should be cheating is on the last set of your exercise and only on the last two or three repetitions, never any more - And allow yourself a slight cheat. Bending 90 degrees at the waist to get a barbell curl up is not a smart cheat!

Remember this. You can only use this technique for a maximum of 3 to 5 weeks and only near the end of your training cycle. For example, let’s say your on a 12 week training cycle. I would recommend that you incorporate the cheating principle on weeks 9 through to12 . Any longer than this and you will risk injury. I’m speaking from direct experience here, and from some of my past training partners. Don’t get too comfortable using this technique because it places a tremendous amount of stress on your body and if abused, can and will lead to injury.

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All the best,


As the owner of Building Muscle 101, I am committed to providing you the best practical weight training advice. I've been training for over 24 years (and still train to this day!) and the advice and guidance I provide comes directly from my experience and knowledge.

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