I was asked the other day what my pet peeve with novice lifters is, and conveniently enough, it’s the same for all levels of lifters and athletes across all sports, in fact: sloppy reps and the mindset that allows them.
Let me make myself clear: I’m not giving you grief over less than perfect lifts, because literally every single lift you ever do will be less than perfect (yes, even those elite weightlifters you fantasize about all day aren’t actually perfect), and all of you are at some stage of learning presently. I don’t expect perfection; what I expect is the desire and intent to perform every single rep you do as well as you possibly can in that moment.
Sloppy reps can only exist if you have the mindset to allow them. This paradigm is that only certain reps are important and meaningful, and only some reps contribute to your learning—the heaviest ones. This is just plain ridiculous.
I don’t expect perfection; what I expect is the desire and intent to perform every single rep you do as well as you possibly can in that moment.
Just like with any other skill, every single repetition is practice and is teaching your body/brain what to do and how to do it. Which reps are the ones your body/brain internalizes? Every single one of them!
Which reps have the greatest influence on your learning and ultimate skill? The ones you perform in the greatest volume.
If you don’t take lifts seriously until you reach higher intensities, which reps comprise the greatest volume of your training by an overwhelming margin? The lighter ones you don’t take seriously and allow to be sloppy.
I hope the source of my exasperation is clear now.
As a weightlifter, you have a unique opportunity for incredible volumes of skill practice because your primary training tools are the very movements you use in competition, and most of the supplemental training you use are segments of those lifts or in some other way replicate their positions or motions. This means that nearly every single thing you do every single time you’re in the gym can contribute to your skill learning… or it can detract from it.
One of the hardest things for the body to do is reconcile similar movement patterns. That is, if two movement patterns are clearly distinct, e.g. snatching and jerking, there’s no issue. But if you snatch ten times and each is a little different because you couldn’t be bothered to take the few extra seconds to prepare for each rep and control the motion as well as possible, you now have conflicting patterns that are hard to differentiate… how is your body supposed to know which one is the one you want written to the hard drive?
Yes, as you’re learning, this is impossible to avoid… you’re not going to be proficient and consistent in your movements from day 1, so your body will be going to through this process in all cases. BUT—the more seriously you take each rep, the more focused you are, the harder you work to move in the way you know you’re supposed to be moving, the less neurological noise you’ll produce, and the faster and more effectively you’ll develop the proficiency and consistency you’re seeking.
Sloppy reps are the result of failing to properly perform any aspect of the lift, from what you’re thinking right before you start, how you approach the bar, how you establish your starting position, your balance and posture, the tension and rigidity in your trunk, the aggression, speed and timing, to the aggression and stability of receiving positions.
Figure out if you truly want to excel, and then change the paradigm that’s guiding your training to one that places value and meaning on every single repetition you perform.