Healthy Cane Column: Lower your weight, make bigger gains

Dave shoots himself a vehement stare in the mirror as he slowly sways to and fro in the padded steel chair, perspiration beading on his brow as his iPod injects the thumping beat of Jay-Z’s “Forever Young”.
“1, 2, 3!” he yells. He ferociously throws up the 70-pound dumbbells off his knees to shoulder height. His feet slam to the ground as his back curves into a bow so arched, that even an inebriated cupid could still hit the girl he’s trying to impress on treadmill number three. Ten reps easy, another shoulder press personal record, “tonight’s gonna be a good night,” he says.
As Dave feels good about his accomplishment, what he doesn’t realize is that he barely used his shoulders to get the weight overhead. When poor form is used in any exercise, the body will “cheat” by using momentum and other muscle groups to assist to the point where an overload is barely experienced in the desired location.
Your best bet for targeting any muscle is to completely isolate it (if aesthetics are desired). This means that you can lower the amount of weight you’re using and emphasize correcting your execution. For example, when shoulder pressing in the chair, keep your back flush with the backrest and feet flat on the floor. Don’t use any momentum from your back to help get the weight up (pause briefly at the top and bottom of the movement to eliminate cheating).
You will see that you will feel much more of a burn as well as significantly lower your risk for injury while maximizing hypertrophy. Feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions about the correct form for any exercise.

Jeremy Albelda is a senior exercise physiology major and a personal trainer. E-mail health questions to him at