6 Reasons You’re not Moving the Weight
1. Your core sucks
Core tightness is the difference about half the time when one of my clients can’t move a weight. Your core is the groups of muscles that attach to your pelvis and lumbar spine. They’re all of the muscles that are dead center on your body, so you can think of them as the middle link in the chain. If you're holding something in your hands, and your feet are on the ground, there’s a reason you're not falling over from the weight of the object, and that reason is because the musculature in your core is tight. Read my article on abs for a more in depth explanation on the stomach muscles, but realize that your glutes and low back are also a part of your core, and for most movements glute tightness is more important than anything.
That doesn’t just mean squeezing your butt cheeks together, your glutes need to dynamically stabilize your pelvis, so for most exercises your hips should be bent slightly back, and your glutes should be engaged. By actively stabilizing with your glutes, your lower abs and low back will be in the proper position to activate and your hips will sit still. Once you’re not wiggling all over the place, you’d be surprised how much stronger you’ll be. Remember, if you feel like you can’t move a weight, activate your core musculature and see if that fixes the problem
2. You're not thinking
Lifting a weight properly requires using your brain!! You have to be mindful of correct technique, and you have to command your body to assume the proper position. I can’t tell you how often I have someone who thinks they're getting stuck and when I ask them what they're thinking about during a lift they say, “I was thinking about pushing.” There is a reason why weightlifting is a sport. It takes a lot of concentration from the participant to execute a lift correctly, and sheer will does not separate the best from the pack. The best lifters in the world in sports like Olympic lifting, powerlifting, strongman, and even bodybuilding are incredibly mindful of technique. To get great at any sport, you don’t just run full speed ahead every second and hope that somehow you're going to be getting better. Progressing often times requires slowing down and really concentrating on what you're doing. At first it can be very frustrating because you'll be asking your body to perform tasks that it has never been through before. Don’t worry, the trade out is that you'll be able to move more weight than you thought.
3. You have a long history of bad technique
This ties in with number 2 above. After weeks, months, or years of using poor technique, your body is going to develop nervous system patterns that make it very difficult to activate muscles properly. Often, it takes swallowing your pride, cutting down the weight and retraining your nervous system. This is not permission to start lifting tiny weights, but if you’ve reached what you feel is your max on a certain lift, it might be that the technique that you're using is no good. Understand that if you have a history of bad technique, you’re really going to want to go back and read number 2 because it’s going to require a lot of mental effort to correct it and start progressing.
4. You're a head case
Once you’ve failed at moving a weight, it can be very hard to tell yourself that you aren’t destined to fail at it again. That’s a big part of why I decided to write this article in the first place. I was having a client who would miss the reps she was given, and it was really frustrating her. The more she missed, the more she tried to cheat her way through the reps. The more her technique broke down, the harder it was to move the weight; it’s a vicious cycle. Even though I was coaching her through the reps, it was pretty obvious that I was being ignored. The problem was that my client had decided in her own mind that she couldn’t lift the weight with proper technique, and as long as that idea was in her head, she was right. Remember, there’s a good reason why the weight isn’t going anywhere, and you can fix it. I hardly ever see a client who gets stuck on a lift because they genuinely weren’t strong enough.
5. You're not fast enough
After you’ve strengthened your core, corrected bad technique and gotten over any mental hurdles that might be in your way, it’s time to move the damn weight. When you push, it is really important that you push with maximal force. Force, in the world of physics, is mass x acceleration, and so to get a weight to move, you need to accelerate it. The only way to do that is through trying to explosively move the weight. There is a good chance that the weight will not actually move very quickly especially if is close to your max, but capitalizing on the impact of acceleration requires that you try to move the weight as quickly as possible.
Often times, when I tell people this one, I watch their technique self-destruct, and then their poundages or reps actually go down, so make sure that you're using the right form, and as you execute reps explosively you are SUPER aware of your body positioning and your form. Moving a heavy weight as fast as possible with bad technique is an injury waiting to happen, so this piece of advice is really for the more advanced lifter. If you're newer to weight lifting, don’t worry about speed as much as proper technique.
6. Your mobility sucks
This is the most underappreciated aspects of weight training out there. If you can’t get your body into the proper position because you don’t have the proper flexibility, there is absolutely nothing that will help you except stretching. You can’t out think inflexibility, you can’t out muscle it, and you can’t will it away. You have to address the problem, and if you’re having flexibility issues, you can bet that you’ve had bad technique for a long time (read number 2 and 3). Try warming up and going through a good stretching session before your workout and see if you don’t see a dramatic difference in performance. Sometimes, the problem is in an area that seems like it had nothing to do with the lift you're performing (I can think of one client whose inner thigh and quad were keeping him from bench pressing properly), so stretch everything a lot.
The information and discussions on this webstie/blog are intended for general information only. You should not rely on any of the statements made without consulting a medical professional of your choosing.