As your trainer, why don’t I care about your 1 rep max for bench press?? Well, the reason my clients come to me is not because I am a power lifting coach, it is because I specialize in body composition – meaning fat loss and muscle growth! I care about how and if you are contracting your muscles properly, what exercises you are doing, and if this corresponds with your goals and building your greatest physique.
The biggest difference with hypertrophy training is you want to make the exercises an inefficient as possible — meaning generally you want the exercise to be executed in the most challenging fashion for the muscle you are trying to target. Usually this involves stabilizing and isolating a muscle and bringing it from its most lengthened position to its shortest position. In strength training however, you want to use your surrounding muscles to help you lift the weight. Obviously the more help you can get the heavier you can lift — and this is the goal of strength training/power lifting – to increase load and strength. Training for body composition however, is notably different.
However, I think it is important for beginners & intermediate lifters to acknowledge this difference. If you are training for hypertrophy (muscle gain) you almost always do not want to lift as heavy as you can. *of course there is some grey area here depending on number of reps and exercise etc.* but the most effective way to grow your muscles is tension; meaning, if done correctly an exercise done with 5 or 10lb dumbbells can generate exponentially more internal tension on a muscle than using double or triple that weight and not being in control of the movement.
I am not saying to lift “light” or take it easy on yourself. That would be the exact opposite of the point of this article. I am urging you to take a second to think about if the muscle you are trying to work is actually the muscle(s) you are using to lift the weight.
It is really important, especially for beginners wanting to build muscle, to take the time to learn proper technique and muscle activation for basic exercises before worrying about 1 Rep maxes or trying to do some fancy exercises you saw on Instagram.
If you are an experienced lifter but you know your form could use some work on certain exercises I challenge you to lower your weight/load and work on correcting your movement pattern, you will build muscle and you will get stronger.
If you are performing reps incorrectly you will get stronger only up until a certain point. After this point, you are going to be going backwards (even if you think you’re getting stronger because you are able to increase load). Using incorrect form repetitively without a doubt leads to muscular imbalances and bad movement patterns that are hard to fix, making it that much more difficult to learn how to activate and use the target muscles.