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Ego Lifting: What Is It and Are You Really Doing It?

Wondering whether you're actually lifting heavy and trying to build strength or just simply ego lifting?

Strong and muscular bodybuilder doing heavy barbell bicep curls

One of the first things that we're all taught as beginners in the gym is that we should never 'ego lift' as it's not going to stimulate as much growth/progress, and could lead to potential injury.

However, for many people in the gym, their definitions and understandings of the term are simply incorrect, and it can quickly start to have an effect on their ability to train hard and see progress in the gym.

Many people think that shaking during your reps, or seeing the bar start to slow down drastically are forms of ego lifting.

However that's simply not the case.

In this post I'm going to go over what exactly ego lifting is, and help you distinguish between whether you're really ego lifting, or if you're simply training hard and doing the right thing.

Let's get started.

What Is Ego Lifting?

Ego lifting, put in the most simple way possible, is lifting a weight that you are not capable of lifting for the majority of a desired rep range, through the full range of motion and with good form/technique.

It doesn't matter if you shake on the way back up, or your bar speed slows down drastically and the last rep feels like eternity.

That's all completely normal.

As long as you pick a weight that you can get through the set with, without having to cheat (either by bringing other muscles or by cutting the range of motion short), you're fine.

For example, let's use a classic example of an exercise where people are prone to ego lift.

The bicep curl.

Let's say you were planning to do a set of 12 reps with a 20kg or 45lb barbell, and you could comfortably (not necessarily easily) curl the weight for 10 or 11 reps.

Man doing barbell bicep curls to build muscle

This means no swinging your body, no half-reps and proper control of the weight on the way back down.

However, you reach the 12th rep and the bar starts to travel extremely slowly on the way up, and you find that you need to swing a tiny bit (not too much) in order to help get the bar moving.

That's completely fine, because it means you're pushing yourself close to failure (on a weight that you're proven to yourself you can actually handle).

As long as you're not doing that from halfway through the set, you're completely fine, and that's a really good way to train.

Even if you're doing a leg press or something like that and you start to shake on from around halfway through the set, if you're somehow able to bang out the rest of the reps without cutting the range of motion short or needing to use your hands to push off your knees, you're completely fine.

Remember, good form has nothing to do with how hard you're shaking, or what your face looks like, or how quickly the bar is moving.

As long as the bar is moving in the correct path, and your body is going through the right motion, you're doing absolutely fine.

What Are Some Tips to Prevent Ego Lifting?

One important thing that you could do for yourself in order to prevent yourself from ego lifting too much would be to take the time to learn the proper form for an exercise, and take the time to really understand how an exercise should be performed before attempting it with heavy loads.

I see so many people cutting their dumbbell shoulder press reps in half, stopping when their elbows are in line with their shoulders simply to try and lift more weight, claiming that going all the way down is harmful to your shoulders and can cause injury.

Remember, it's up to you to educate yourself and make yourself knowledgeable when it comes to fitness, as the only person that's going to be affected by your inefficient training is you.

And on a side note, always just try to keep yourself accountable.

It takes some real strength to look at the set you've just done, think about it and decide that you're trying to lift more than you can handle and need to drop the weight.

But please, do try to keep yourself accountable.

This can be especially hard if you're training with a friend (trust me I've experienced it), when there's friendly competition and both of you are trying to outlift the other.

It's hard to admit that you're overdoing it and that you need to drop the weight.

But at the end of the day, you're the only person that's going to be affected by this, and YOU need to stay honest with yourself.

So How Do I Know If I'm Ego Lifting?

If you're a little unsure whether you're ego lifting or not, there are a couple of ways you can decide for yourself.

Have Someone Experienced Watch You Lift

Personal trainer helping man do dumbbell bicep curls to prevent ego lifting

One good way to determine where you're ego lifting would be to ask someone who knows what they're doing, and ask them to watch you and critique you after your set.

Often times our eyes are blind to our own flaws and mistakes, and it can help with accountability and keeping honest if we've got an extra pair of eyes watching from the side.

Get In Front of the Mirror or Record Yourself

Another good way to judge yourself and see whether you're ego lifting is to either get in front of the mirror so that you can watch yourself, or record yourself lifting from the side so that you can watch your own form over and over again.

It's going to help with making judgements and deciding whether or not you're actually ego lifting.

Then, if you're still unsure, or you want to double check, show the video to someone else who knows what they're doing, and ask for their thoughts!

Try It With a Lighter Weight

Lastly, one really good way to decide whether you're trying to lift too much would be to strip the weight down to a very light load, and see whether you can do the exercise with full range of motion and without cheating.

Lots of people lift heavy on exercises such as the lat pulldown and the leg press, cutting their range of motion short and claiming that they're not able to go all the way through with the exercise.

Woman doing heavy leg press and ego lifting by trying to use too much weight

In reality, if they were to try and drop the weight to practically nothing, they would be able to go through the range of motion and exercise perfectly fine.

This is a really good way to keep honest with yourself, and stick to weights that you can do properly.

Because ultimately, proper training and hard work is going to be the best approach to your goals in the gym.

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All in all, it can certainly be difficult to distinguish between ego lifting and simply training hard.

It can be hard to decide for yourself whether you're ego lifting, and it's sometimes downright impossible for some people to admit that they're ego lifting and that they need to retrace their steps.

However, the best thing that you can do for yourself is to keep accountable, and use the techniques we've introduced in this article to stay on track for your goals!

I hope you've enjoyed this article, and have been able to learn something from it!

If you did, remember to share it with a friend so that we can reach more people and help keep the world knowledgeable in fitness!

Do you think you're ego lifting?

Let us know in the comments section below!


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