When you begin an exercise the first rep you do is the most important. Your goal is to block out all distractions and perform the perfect rep. The weight should be raised smoothly, paused in the contracted position and lowered slowly to a full stretch. When you begin the second rep, it is now the most important and should be performed in the exact same manner as the first rep. Your goal is to replicate perfect repetitions. If we were to videotape a set of repetitions, we shouldn't be able to notice a difference in the reps when the tape is played back.
Keep in mind that the purpose of a properly performed repetition is to eventually develop a level of strength we do not have. It is not to demonstrate a level of strength we wish we had. There are some exercises that have been touted as being great for training athletes that break all three rules of a properly performed repetition. These include power cleans, snatches, push presses and a host of other Olympic lift variations. These lifts rely on momentum, leverage, complicated technique, little tension on the involved muscles, no constant tension, and no negative or lowering portion of the exercise. Is this really a productive way to train? Decide for yourself.
Most coaches are result oriented. Some believe the result of strength training should be to make the weights go up and down. Some believe the result should be an athlete who can bench press a certain amount of weight and who can have their name on a record board. But your muscles do not care if the weights go up or down, or even if there are any weights at all. All the muscle cares about is how hard it is being forced to work. The immediate result of properly performed exercise should be greatly fatigued muscles. It all starts with the properly performed repetition.
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