If there’s one magic rule you’re not allowed to violate and still maintain your gym-guy credibility, it’s the “form rule.”  It’s imperative that you use excellent form in each of your lifts to maximize results, prevent injury, and keep the folks around you from looking at you with a silent side eye glance that is the gym equivalent of an all CAPS LOCK rant on a body building forum… if your form is lacking, you must not be taking the game seriously enough.

Worse still, if you’re using improper form, and are a woman, you’ll immediately be inundated with well-intentioned bros that are remarkably eager to give you personal lessons.

“Let’s see that squat one more time. Get as deep into as you can,” Chad tells you through a fine mist of hair gel and self-tanner. “I’ll get behind you to be your spotter.”

Here’s the thing, good form IS integral.  Doing an exercise the way it was intended really does help to maximize the benefits you get from doing them, but more importantly to the aging athlete, it goes a long way to prevent the types of nagging injuries most of us struggle to avoid.  I slipped two discs in my back in my late twenties, and for the most part I can avoid aggravating them, but if I slip up on my deadlifts ONE TIME, I’m going to be walking like a zombie for two days.  It’s just inevitable.  So, I’m not here to tell you to stop using good form… but I am here to tell you that it’s okay to cheat, here and there.

What do I mean by cheating? Well, as I’ve said before, it’s my experience that nothing develops strength quite like failure, which means you should be aiming to just about (if not completely) fail near the end of your last set.  I’ll use pushups as an example.  If you can only do ten pushups, plan to do four sets of six or seven reps.  By the fourth set, your body should be trembling to get you back up off the floor for reps five through seven. Bench, squat, curl, you can employ this methodology for any lift, including in high rep workouts intended to increase endurance (just plan to fail closer to 20, rather than under 10).

At that failure point, though, you’ll often find yourself in a bit of a predicament.  If you’re like me, you’re working out alone and don’t have a spotter to pick the bar back up off of you when you fail… but you know you have enough left in the tank for a LITTLE more… just maybe not one more full repetition.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is when I cheat.

If I’m left with the choice between stopping now, or doing one more (slightly sloppy) rep, where I may not go quite as deep as I should… I’m going for that cheater rep.  Why?  Because Arnold Schwarzenegger.