Cheat to Win Is OK in Moderation

A small amount of momentum on dumbbell lateral raises helps


HYPOTHESIS The Weider Principle of Cheating is a training technique that is often misunderstood and misused. Some trainers believe that any form of cheating is wrong, and that no cheating should ever be used, for both safety and for results. Yet those who know how to use cheating the right way can actually reap more benefits than those who never break proper form. One of the best and most common times to use cheating is toward the end of the set, when fatigue sets in. By cheating you can force out a few extra reps and take your muscle beyond failure. New research from the U.K. suggests that cheating on lateral raises on every set may be better for muscle growth than using strict form.

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RESEARCH It would be very difficult to measure the effect of cheating on muscle growth in live humans. So researchers from Swansea University ran a computer- simulated dumbbell lateral raise with varying amounts of “cheating” (that is, generating momentum with the help of non-target muscles).

FINDINGS The researchers reported in a 2012 issue of the European Journal of Applied Physiology that supplying just a small amount of cheating (i.e., momentum) during lateral raises increased the torque placed on the middle deltoid and allowed more reps to be completed per set than when more no cheating was employed. However, when too much cheating (momentum) was used, it reduced the torque placed on the middle deltoid.

CONCLUSION Researchers concluded that using just a small amount of momentum on dumbbell lateral raises could potentially increase deltoid muscle mass better than using strict form on every set.

APPLICATION Remember that this was just a computer-simulated study, so the results should be considered with some caution. However, they do raise some interesting questions. Can using just a slight bit of momentum (cheating) help to build bigger delts by placing more torque on the middle deltoids and allowing you to complete more sets with a given weight? There’s only one way to determine that—by trying it out yourself in the gym. We suggest that every other workout you go a bit heavier than usual and employ a small amount of cheating; or that you do four sets of lateral raises during each shoulder workout, performing the first two sets with heavier weight and looser form, and the last two with lighter weight and very strict form.

Reference: Aradjelovic, O, European Journal of Applied Physiology. In press, 2012.