There is a misconception that lifting heavy is worlds apart from lifting with proper form. Heavy has the connotation of using bad form to complete the lift, while proper form connotes using light weights with a slow tempo to fully control the movement. While true to an extent, this misconception is depriving lifters of the progress they could be getting by limiting their use of heavy weights to shock the body into growth. This need not be – you can actually use heavy weights and maintain good form.

Heavy Lifting with Proper Form

You need proper form to do heavy deadlifts safely.

It all boils down to knowing how much you can really lift for one repetition with proper form, without cheating – your one rep max (1RM). This important number is key to properly programming your routine so that you can make the most gains in the least time, with the least risk for injury.

You can find your one rep max using any one of many calculators available online.

Heavy lifting is defined as any lift working with more than 90% of your 1RM. Working this close to your maximum demands thar you use fewer repetitions per set, and do more sets if you are looking to increase training volume. Many lifters gain steadily on around 3 repetitions per set for 3-4 sets per exercise, for a total of close to 10 repetitions.

By challenging your body with more weight while keeping volume down, fatigue does not happen in the middle of the set – rather, form breakdown will happen at the start of the lift if the weight is too heavy when it is still safe to put the weight back down.

On the other hand, proper form does not mean lifting too slowly. By expending too much energy on the negative part of the movement, fatigue will set in too quickly, causing failure. A relaxed one second up, one second down tempo should be maintained, especially under heavy weights that demand maximum efficiency. It also does not include “grinding”, although some lifters consider this essential to gaining strength. Too many lifters still cannot properly estimate whether they can complete the next repetition based on the last one. This could lead to injury, which will set you back months.

Using heavy weights with proper form is one of the surest ways to make progress in the gym regularly. You will see workout-to-workout improvements in either the weight you lift, the number of reps you complete, or the ease with which you complete all your sets. When heavy weights feel easy, it means your strength has increased, and you can safely add weight without sacrificing proper form.

Pushing your limits is not just about being aggressive – you have to be smart about it as well. You’re lifting to be in peak physical condition, so make sure you stay that way by knowing your 1RM and working with the appropriate weights to make your workouts hard and yet safe. You’ll make faster steady progress that way.

For a good explanation of the importance of using proper form, check out Why is Proper Form so Important When Working Out.

Photo Credit: David Castillo Dominici,