Do You Need Mirrors When Lifting Weights?
Nearly every commercial gym has a giant wall of mirrors that surrounds an entire space or portion of the gym with a dumbbell rack. Watching yourself in a mirror can help you make sure you’re climbing in the right shape and using the right muscles – so what the hell are you doing if you’re climbing in a garage with no mirrors at all?
In truth, your garage (or living room or backyard) isn’t the only fitness space in the world that doesn’t have mirrors. Crossfit boxes, for example, often don’t. In my experience (combined with my Instagram crawl), I don’t think I’ve ever seen a gym built for powerlifters, weightlifters, or strongmen that has a wall of mirrors.
Why are mirrors needed
Gym mirrors go back to the bodybuilding tradition of training specific muscle groups. By observing yourself in the mirror, you can tell if you are performing the movement exactly as intended and see how your muscles are working.
Several times I saw mirrors in a powerlifting or weightlifting gym, they were small and located next to the dumbbells. They make the most sense here: if you are doing side raises, be sure to raise both arms evenly; If you are doing biceps curls, you can keep your elbow in place to isolate your biceps rather than “modifying” your body.
Raising your body in front of a mirror also forces you to look at yourself and weigh your appearance – which can be either good or bad, depending on how you feel about your body. I definitely had moments when I did the exercise in front of the mirror and noticed something that I liked. It’s also tempting to judge yourself harshly.
Why don’t you need them
If you are doing complex exercises that require many parts of your body to move in sync with each other, you will not get far until you can feel the movement.
Watch the experienced lifter train his eyes during the deadlift: he walks to the bar, looks down when he puts his feet, looks at the bar when he puts his arms, and then fixes his gaze when he lifts. There is no mirror on the platform. Why should it be?
But in countless test videos I’ve seen, newer, insecure athletes set up with a mirror on their side. They look in the mirror as they walk up to the bar and get to their feet. They look down at the bar to place their hands, then look in the mirror again to see what it looks like. Face forward again as they lift the weight, then immediately return to the mirror. All these head turns interfere with their flow and focus, and can you tell what they think, what does it look like? and not how it feels?
Until last year, I trained in a gym with mirrors. When I squatted, he always looked in the mirror. So it was easy to tell when I was squatting low enough. But when I was preparing for a powerlifting competition, I realized that I could not expect to watch. I need to know when I have reached depth. I stopped looking at my hips and began to stare blankly ahead. Pretty quickly, I figured out where I needed to be.
What to use instead
If you don’t have a mirror, you can use the video to check your form (or if you have a trusted friend at the gym, ask his opinion). Walk up to the bar, do the exercise with confidence, and then check how it looks.
Video form validation is also suitable for more than just large operations. You can do these side lifts in front of your phone’s camera and use the feedback to see if you are doing them right.
Exercising without a mirror may seem odd at first, but your body knows how to exercise. You will be fine.