Lifts that you should keep LIGHT!

This isn’t an article about lifts in which beginners should keep the weights light. That would be a very short article because it would just say “All of them”. This is an article about lifts that the general public, even if they’re very experienced lifters, don’t need to go heavy on. Of course there are some exceptions to the rule, if you are a professional weightlifter there might be instances in which you would want to do some of these lifts (like Good Mornings) at heavier weights. But if you’re a professional weightlifter, I would assume your form is great, you have a coach watching you, your back has been conditioned to be able to handle the load, and your profession is to lift the most weight possible so you are accepting the inherent risk of these lifts. Most of us aren’t professionals and can still get the benefits (sometimes MORE benefits) of these lifts while keeping the weight low, with the added benefit of not risking injury.

There are a number of reasons why we would want to keep the weights light in a lift, but I’m going to focus on these two:

1: Safety

2: Proper Muscle Engagement

Some movements are simply more dangerous than others and the lifter can still get great benefits at light weights. Some movements are actually MORE effective with light weight, because the athlete can more easily isolate the exact right muscles. Away we go.

Good Mornings

Good Mornings are a great accessory exercise to help strengthen the hamstrings, glutes, and low back even with little to no weight. At our gym, we do Good Mornings almost every day as a warm up exercise, during dynamic stretching, and to help teach athletes how to keep their back flat and engaged.  Overloading good mornings is dangerous and you are very likely to do them completely wrong or to hit too large or too small range of motion with a heavy weight. The reason this is a dangerous movement is because it involves loading the hamstrings with weight while simultaneously stretching them, something that could put too much strain on them when the weight is heavy. Heavy weight might push the athlete too low and they either put their hamstrings in too deep of a stretch or compromise their movement by forcing them to round their back. Athletes can see great strength and body composition benefits by going very light on Good Mornings, moving slowly to focus on isolating the posterior chain, keeping their back perfectly engaged and standing back up before going too low. These are hard even with light weights, you’ll still get a great workout.

Front/Lateral Raises

Shoulders are complex and are often prone to injuries when people exercise. That’s a shame, because proper exercises should strengthen the shoulders and make them more resilient to injury, not the opposite. Front and lateral raises involve moving a weight away from the body using many of the smaller muscles of the shoulder. Those smaller muscles fatigue quickly and can become compromised when the movement isn’t perfect. There are a ton of variables with front and lateral raises such as the exact angle the arm is moving at, how high the weight is lifted, direction at which the palm is facing, etc. When the weights get heavy people tend to lean in one direction or the other and use momentum to help them lift the weight. That’s not the purpose of this exercise. Lighten up the weight, completely isolate the shoulder by standing still and not using momentum, and move straight forwards or straight to the side. Work those small muscles without putting too much strain on them so that they can strengthen up and keep your shoulders healthy for future heavy overhead lifts. If you’re looking to tone or build muscle in the delts, there are plenty of other exercises that are safer to go heavy on that will do that, such as upright rows and shoulder presses.

Reverse Flyes

Reverse flyes are great for strengthening the small muscles of the scapulae. These are especially beneficial because they will help offset the muscle imbalances that are often caused by the bench press and will help make your shoulders more durable. Similar to front and lateral raises, the muscles that are isolated by the reverse fly are small and typically rather weak. You simply cannot use super heavy weights and do this movement properly, the weight needs to be light enough for you to reach full range of motion and be able to actively squeeze your shoulder blades at the top. This exercise will also help athletes to understand how to properly engage their scaps to put their shoulders and back in a safe position when doing other heavy lifts.

Motivated by this post to hit a quick workout in the comfort of your own home? Try any of these!