A person lifting weight from ground

Australian Study Says You’ve Been Lifting Weights Wrong

The above headline will come as no surprise to many of us who are sure that lifting weights in the first place is inherently wrong. But apparently, even if you subscribe to the benefits of weightlifting, DMARGE and others reckon you’ve probably been doing it the wrong way to get those benefits.

A study in “Frontiers in Sports and Active Living” has suggested that focusing on specific muscles – like blasting those curls on arm day – isn’t the best way to go about building your body. Rather, to increase your strength you should be concentrating on moving the weight itself, rather than on the particular muscle you’re looking to boost.

The researchers found that gym-goers were able to perform better for longer when they focused attention on the external results of the workout – moving the weight – and not on the effect on the muscle. They concluded that maximising performance means shifting to this “external focus” and away from “muscle focus”.

As is always, awkwardly, the way with science, we don’t necessarily need to up-end our whole concept of strength and athletic performance overnight. These results suggest that the way we’ve been thinking about lifting weights is flawed, but there’s not yet sufficient breadth of research to determine whether the same principles can be applied across all sports and disciplines.

But for now, it’s safe to say that if you want to get the most out of your gym time, focusing on moving that weight, and not worrying about how it’s affecting anyone muscle, is the way to go.

Image Credit: Vegan Liftz


  • A Systematic Review of Attentional Focus Strategies in Weightlifting – David L. Neumann, School of Applied Psychology, Griffith University, Gold Coast, QLD, Australia – Front. Sports Act. Living, 09 August 2019 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fspor.2019.00007

Ben Pobjie

Ben Pobjie is an accomplished author, commentator and columnist who specialises in studies of Australian history and culture. A prolific writer, Ben’s work has appeared The Age, New Matilda, King's Tribune, Crikey, The Roar, Meanjin, GQ, Mamamia, The Punch and many others. He also has several books to his name, having published titles Superchef, Surveying the Wreckage, and The Book of Bloke. Additionally, Ben’s work has spilled into the realm of television and comedy, writing for You Have Been Watching on Foxtel and The Unbelievable Truth on Channel Seven, with the media expert appearing frequently on ABC radio, Triple R, 3CR and 2SER.