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Are You Cheating Yourself?

Short answer: Probably not.

In this article I’ll be discussing the appropriate use and the drastic consequences of the abuse of cheat reps. Cheat reps involve using a slight bit of momentum or “body english” in order to perform a certain exercise and/or  to overload the muscles, as you can obviously lift more weight with looser form. Now there are those people that strongly advocate the use of cheat reps and there are those that believe they are the work of Satan and should never be used because “it’s not you lifting it bro, it’s momentum”. I’m somewhere in between.

Beginners and novice lifters should definitely stick to the basics and practice strict correct form, they need to develop a solid base and a decent mind muscle connection before even thinking about using cheat reps. Stick to progressive overload. Now as you evolve into a more intermediate or advanced lifter, using a little bit of momentum, provided you’re utilizing the mental focus or mind muscle connection is reasonably fine. Doing this allows you to lift slightly heavier weights and therefore overload your muscles, resulting in strength and hypertrophy.

So how much is too much?

If you watch any pro bodybuilder, chances are they’re using what’s considered atrocious form (particularly on exercises like rows, curls, lat pulldowns etc) but are obviously jacked. Now without delving in their extra curricular supplement use let’s say that this works for them although I believe the extreme use of momentum isn’t beneficial and you should never compare yourself to a professional, unless of course you are a professional. To maximize the efficiency of cheat reps you need to be able to hold the static contraction and perform the eccentric (lowering) phase in a controlled manner, simply swinging the weights around like a Neanderthal lunatic will serve only to injure you but doing it as I suggest will limit the risk of injury. I would suggest you use a weight you can get 6-8 reps comfortably with decent form and aim for 10 or more.

Exercise do’s and don’ts!

I’m going to give a brief list of exercises I think could be used safely with cheat reps and those I think you should avoid cheating on at all costs.



Lateral raises and rear delt raises – using a slight bit of leg drive can push your set beyond failure and overload the muscles.

Overhead press – performing push presses once your form starts to falter on strict overhead presses.


Curls – A little big of leg drive and back involvement will enable you to lift more weight. However make sure you don’t turn this into a reverse grip power clean.

Tricep pressdowns – getting some forward lean and involving your pecs, shoulders and lats in the movement will definitely increase the amount of weight you can handle and help overload your tris.


Leg presses – these are ideal, when you begin to fatigue simply place your hands on your knees to help you train beyond failure.


Dumbbell/Meadows rows – a bit of leg drive will help to overload the lats.

Lat pulldowns and cable rows – arching your back slightly and using your body to shift the weight can work well to overload your lats during the eccentric.


T-Bar rows/Barbell rows – jerking the weight places a tremendous amount of stress on the lower back, avoid extended cheat sets with these.

Bench pressing and overhead pressing – bouncing the weight off your chest is a surefire way of seriously messing up your shoulders and potentially your sternum.

Stiff legged deadlifts – for the same reason as the bent over barbell row, too much stress on the lower back and also the risk of tearing a hamstring.

Dips – ever get sick an tried of having elbows? Try bouncing out of the bottom when performing dips, that’ll sort it!

Chin ups/ Pull ups – Kipping is a definite no no. Take that crossfit shit somewhere else son!

For the love of god Don’ts!

Squats – Bouncing out of the hole is fine when you’re a seasoned lifter and know how to maintain tightness, but simply dropping and trying to muscle your way back up is a one way ticket to the orthopedics center.

Deadlifts – God no! If you hate your spine then by all means bounce your deadlifts. However if you’re sane and anything like me I’d avoid bouncing at all costs, watching people do this makes my stomach turn and my back (among other things) tighten in fear.

So in summation if you’ve developed a decent base and have a solid mind muscle connection, then throwing in some cheat sets or reps might be just what you need in order to break through a plateau or spur on some new muscle growth, but use this technique sparingly and make sure you don’t go overboard!



author: Louis Whenlock

Hi I’m Louis, a passionate freelance Personal Trainer on a mission to cut through the BS and gimmicks of the fitness world and deliver honest, hard earned results to my clients.

Lift Strong and Conquer!
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