"Quality reps, Mehar, keep 'em quality. Every rep counts. Don't give shitty reps. Don't sacrifice form for good morning speed." Steve told me this sometime last year out of the blue. Of course, the idea of trying of performing reps properly was always in the back of my head, as I'm sure it is for all lifters. I mean, how many times have you heard that good form is important, or that you should focus on perfect technique before adding weight to the bar?
After training for some time and focusing on form, you realize that letting your knees cave a bit gets you out of the hole faster… or letting the bar sink gives you more acceleration off the chest… allowing your upper back to round speeds the lift off the floor. You've found justifications for performing subpar reps, and they seem truly justified -- who doesn't want to move the bar a bit faster?
There are numerous problems with this approach that we could get into: lower transfer of repetitions to your one rep max, higher injury risks, higher probabilities of red lights in competition, etc. These are all very legitimate reasons to stray from performing subpar reps, however, the most important drawback is this: allowing yourself to perform sub quality reps brings about a mentality of accepting mediocrity.
Striving for quality gives you personal responsibility over each repetition. Each part of the setup and repetition becomes intentional and absent of superfluous movement. Your primary focus is not moving fast, it is having awareness of positioning throughout each rep. Through this focus you take note of each and every error, and strive for improvement.
Your walk out is not only three steps now, it takes up less distance and you slide your feet instead of taking large steps. Your bench press unrack is efficient enough such that you no longer lose tightness prior to beginning the set. Your back is tight and hip height consistent between reps when you deadlift, leading to easier lockouts.
Through striving for quality reps, not only are you more efficient, you have a repeatable process that you are aware of. From feeling your feet and creating a solid base for your body, to squeezing your back and creating a solid base for the bar, you're aware of each piece of musculature being used and can recognize where you are falling apart during and between reps. You aren't simply letting go and standing up, you feel tension and recognize your positions throughout the entire set.
Although perfect reps are magical rare moments, striving for quality reps every single time -- not "giving shitty reps" -- is entirely doable. It is not about making your lifts look pretty for 'The Gram', it is about emulating what separates good lifters from great lifters. It is about leading yourself to consistent performances on the platform, and ultimately, a bigger total.