There’s definitely a fine line between pushing yourself and lying to yourself, by reading this post you’ll be able to maximise your results and avoid injuries wherever possible.
Lifting too much weight is more common in men but it can happen to anyone, I find I try to lift too much weight when I go with friends to the gym who lift more than me or when there are many other people in the gym lifting more than me. It’s definitely good to push the limit in the gym but make sure you’re not doing it at the consequence of your gym results.
1) If you need a spotter or your form goes to crap for more than the last 1-2 reps, I think it’s acceptable to squeeze out the last two reps if you’re aiming for a set of 12, but if you’re aiming for a set of 2-3 reps bad for is barely acceptable for the last rep. You don’t need to drop the weight if you’re using the spotter as a drop set, for example you do 8 reps on your full weight and your spotter takes most of the weight for the next 4-8 reps, although you might just be better of dropping the weight rather than using the spotter for the drop set.
2) Similar to the first but not exactly the same. If you have bad form doing a movement, you need to take a step back and start lifting lighter weights. Bad form is usually down to one muscle group being too weak or too tight, your form is as good as the weakest muscle so consider doing some isolation stretching or strength training on the weaker/tighter muscle. This goes for left to right imbalances, e.g the barbell slanting on barbell bicep curls due to the left/right being weaker. The other imbalance can be muscle imbalances or front to back imbalances, e.g a curved back in deadlift, although your quads are strong enough to lift the weight your back might arch because it;s not strong enough
3) If your muscles hurt in a bad way, this isn’t to be confused with aching, it’s more of a sharp pain when doing a certain movement pattern, this sign can be in the gym or waking up the next morning, any sharp pains you get either in the gym or the next morning are signs you need to man down, take step back and focus on you structural integrity and form. It is possible you can lift the same weight with a proper stretching/yoga and warm up and coold down routine. I’ve had upper back problems that stop me from squatting and after stretching properly for a small period of time I’ve not had to reduce the weight I squat anymore.
4) If you’ve been overtraining you might need to reduce the amount of weight you lift using periodisation. After being in the gym for some time you can’t always increase the weight you lift or you’ll get overtrained by maxing out on the main lifts for a prolonged period of time. This can be called a de-load, where you only spend a week lifting lighter weights and get back into heavier ones, or you can start a programme going from light weights and increasing it week by week, the theory behind this is that once you reach your peak again you’ll be able to make much bigger jumps in strength or size as your body has adequate time to rest. Lifting lighter weights is important so you don’t get injured overtraining.
You have to realise even the strongest people in the gym have to occasionally lift light weights, and that they were all in your shoes once. I don’t give a crap anymore how light I have to go to get my form right to train the foundation of a strong lifter. Although I call lightening the weights manning-down, it takes a lot of effort to do light weights for a couple of weeks.