The Most Important Training Variable

What is the most important consideration when putting together a training plan? There are many variables to consider:


Number of repetitions
Number of sets
Number of exercises
Rest Period
Training Split

This list could go on – so that’s a lot of points to think about. Wait. What about training style or routine? Again, we have plenty to think about here also:

Heavy Duty
German Volume Training
Super Sets
Giant Sets

Again this list could continue. So, out of all the above variables, which is the most important? Sorry to confuse you again but nothing in either of the two lists is as important as what every bodybuilders first consideration should be when thinking about training. Ok…I know I’ve kept you waiting for too long now, the most important training variable is FORM. I know this doesn’t conjure up images of blood, sweat and tears in the gym but trust me when I say if more people paid attention to form their physiques would be transformed.

Good form means you are working the muscle you are supposed to be training as opposed to working every adjacent muscle but the one you want to grow. What about heavy weight I hear some people asking. Heavy weight with good form will beat heavy weight with sloppy form any day of the week. In fact if anyone asked me about any of the training variables discussed earlier I would tell them that good form precedes each and every one of them.

Training with good form doesn’t mean performing each exercise very slowly – you can train explosively with great form. Training with good form doesn’t mean you can’t train ‘balls to the wall’ and show everyone how ‘fecking’ hard you are. In fact, maintaining good form whilst pushing yourself to the limit is harder than cheating out the last few reps of a set.

So what does training with good form mean? Simply, that you are getting the required response from the muscle group you are training every time you train. Yes, for those that train with poor form, this may mean training a little lighter for a while but the response you will get will be worth it. Training with a heavier weight may mean muscle growth but if the only reason you are moving more weight is that you have compromised form the one and only response you’ll get is that you have moved more weight from A to B and the stress on the muscle will be less.

I already know what the response of many who will read this article will be. I’ve watched the Pro’s training DVD’s and You Tube videos and many of those guys (and girls) don’t use particularly good form. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that many of the top competitors’ form is atrocious! You must realise there are two main points to consider when watching many of these training clips:

The people at the top are genetic freaks who will grow no matter how they train.
Light weights don’t sell – throwing around huge weights does.

I’m convinced that one of the reasons we are seeing many more muscle tears on stage at amateur shows these days is that many of us mere mortals think we have to train as heavy as possible even at the expense of good form because we regularly see our hero’s doing the exact same thing. If that’s you – stop!

Apart from avoiding injuries better form WILL increase the stress on the target muscles during a training session. As an example, a bodybuilder I coached in the past said to me he was feeling his shoulders and triceps more than his chest when he was performing barbell inclines. This guy was incredibly strong – he used five plates a side for six full reps! Notice I said full reps and not ‘good form’. With some adjustments to his form he told me he had never had a pump in his chest like that from barbell incline before. Yes, he had to use less weight – now three plates a side instead of five, which is still a huge weight for most of us. Now though, the target muscles were getting all the work as opposed to shoulders and triceps and the risk of a major injury was greatly reduced. Did he continue to use less weight on barbell inclines – hell no! Unfortunately, he needed to be known as the strongest man in the gym. I say who cares about being the strongest when you look the best!

So how do you learn how to use better form? Experiment, watch, listen, ask people in the gym with years of experience – especially those with no major injuries. Don’t be afraid to go against what the majority of bodybuilders are currently doing in their own training. Of all the people that train how many are successful? A very small minority, which means that the vast majority are unsuccessful and would get better results from doing something different.

Don’t just blindly follow what others are doing; use your most important muscle – YOUR MIND!!

Mike Gelsei BSc