Updated: Nov 21
Let me set the scene.
You’re at Heron Creek for your workout. You know what you’re doing as you’re prepared, warming up your muscles for some strength training. Your playlist is fire, creating the perfect headspace for you to fight your daily demons, when all of the sudden that one guy pulls up next to you and slams the heaviest weight on the bar. No warm up, just excess. OVER YOUR MUSIC, you hear him grunting, his form is terrible, and there’s no control or tempo to his movements. He’s just trying to impress everyone, not realizing the danger for potential injury or that he just looks plain ridiculous.
He is an Ego Lifter.
What is Ego Lifting?
Ego lifting is when someone (or even you!) attempts to lift more weight than they should.
This is either in the pursuit of gaining muscle/strength or to impress any onlookers who happen to be using a nearby squat rack or bench. While ego lifters may think they look impressive, they are again, increasing their chances of injury or poor joints in their future.
Lifting too heavy is a common mistake ego lifters make for their fitness goals. While they believe that maximum strength comes from lifting the most they possibly can, it only really allows them to complete a few really tight and strained movements. For most strength goals hypertrophy is better for overall performance with multiple sets of 6 to 12 reps, rather than 3 to 1 super heavy strained ones. If you cannot have proper form or move the weight for minimum 6 reps, the weight is too heavy.
Poor form is another common mistake that comes with ego lifting. Going way too fast, bouncing out of the beginning and ending positions of a lift (like deadlifts or squats), swinging other body parts around to generate momentum, and/or jerking the weight around are all dead giveaways that the weight may be too heavy. Proper form is really important for muscle gain and to avoid injury. If you cannot move the weight with control for the desired number of reps or do so with a consistent tempo, you should drop the weight. No one is going to judge you for listening to your body.
Another sign of ego lifting is partial or excessive body movement. One scene may be the guy who puts four plates on either side of his leg press, only to move it three inches. Not getting the full range of motion makes the movement useless, regardless of how heavy it is. It is also really important that you aren’t moving excessively either - this is often seen in squats that are way too deep, to the point where the back rounds out and the shoulders fall way forward in order to recover or move the weight. Excessive motion is just as damaging and can increase chances for injury.
Training through pain is another sign of lifting with an oversized ego. While working out can be painful for some, there is a specific type of pain to avoid. Stabbing or severe pain, dull throbbing, or a grinding sensation can be a sign of torn or overstretched muscles. While the saying ‘no pain, no gain’ means a lot to bros of the gym, there are certain types of pain that mean you should stop or you are pushing your body too much.
Why do People Ego Lift?
There are many reasons why someone may ego lift, but most often it is influenced by a lack of education and/or trying to impress others. With the lack of education, it’s not doing the research or putting time into understanding how the human body moves and how weight load contributes to muscle gain. Trying to impress others is also another reason people may ego lift, when their gym buddies mock or pressure them to lift more than they are capable of. Or feeling like you have something to prove to everyone or even yourself, but inflating your ego may have serious consequences. Both of these can lead to a lack of form, excessive or restrictive movement, having to use momentum to move the weight, and can just overall reduce your gains or get you injured.
Ego lifting can impact the environment of the gym. Make sure you are using proper form and not lifting over your limit. More progress will be seen lifting less with more reps and correct, properly ranged movements. Try to avoid peer pressure from your buddies and listen to your body because no one is really paying attention to what you are doing at the gym, as we are all off in our own little worlds, unless you’re ego lifting and slamming the weights to the ground!