Originally Posted by mohiz
When I was talking about form breaking down on the main lifts, I was talking mainly about the guys always squatting 125 lbs, always insisting on going ATG, form looking great but they never increase the weight. It boggles my mind why. Of course good form means better leverages, and I always strive to improve my squat every single session. I think of new cues I could think about to improve my positioning. But if you never break down at all, then you're not really trying in my opinion. Also if you never miss a lift, same thing.
Then there are some people that insist on the bar speed always being fast. I get that you may want explosiveness etc. but you can't progress very far if you only go up to the weight you can still do explosively. Note, I'm still pretty inexperienced so I don't want to offend anyone in case I'm wrong about this.
On isolation movements such as the barbell curl I simply can't progress without cheating. Even if I only add 1.25 kg on the bar each time, it's such a big percentage of the weight that I'm using for curls that the increase is too much for my biceps to handle. When I add some speed to my curls I can use a little heavier weight and progress using the 1.25 kg increases no problem. Think of it like the push press - isn't that basically a cheating version of the normal overhead press?
There is a fine line when it comes to progress on the big lifts. You're absolutely right, you have to push yourself to get that 5lb PR or to get that extra rep, but you also have to feel it out, especially as the weights get heavier. If I have a day where I feel good then it's time for a new PR, but that day may only come once a month. I also have days where I just don't feel that great, and these days I keep the weights lower but focus on both form and moving explosively. If you keep form good and move fast you're stimulating the CNS without really tiring it out, but doing that alone won't really train the CNS to fire as many motor units as absolutely possible. To do that you have to go heavy and get your PR's in. It's also extremely important to go heavy so that your form will break down as little as possible. When you've got a weight crushing you it's really hard to fall back on the fundamentals like good breathing. This happened to me a couple weeks ago. I haven't been doing much maximal strength work, and when I tried to go heavy on a squat I should have been able to get my breathing and my technique both completely fell apart and I got absolutely barried.
But avoiding failure is also important. Steve has talked on this a lot. I believe he said he's only failed like 2 lifts in however many years. But avoiding failure isn't about avoiding form breakdown or being scared of heavy weight. It's more about being able to successfully asses how you're feeling and what you're capable of (VERY important for a competing lifter), as well as instilling confidence. If you get used to feeling that you can complete the lift then you're actually training your mind to believe in yourself, if that makes sense.