You might have heard people call me “The Form General.” This is true, but don’t say it like it’s a bad thing!! Proper form while strength training is extremely important for multiple reasons.
The most important reason that I am so strict on form is not to just be a diligent trainer, but to ensure your safety. Most workout injuries come from lack of proper form while strength training. Injury prevention starts with a solid foundation of great form on all of your exercises. When you sacrifice form, a couple of different things can happen. First of all, your body comes out of alignment. When you are misaligned, you are putting your body in danger and are more susceptible to muscle tears, strains, and joint issues. I get a ton of people who believe they can’t squat anymore due to bad form in the past. But with time, patience, and retraining muscles, we can get there!
Not maintaining proper form also negatively affects your results. I have had far too many people come through my doors discouraged about simple things in regards to their fitness goals that could have been avoided with the use of proper form. In particular with strength training, we have to get the muscles firing properly in order to get the muscle stronger to see those results.
The biggest culprit of bad form, other than lack of knowledge is…a big, bad EGO! In previous blogs, I talked about setting S.M.A.R.T. Goals and making sure they are the right goals for YOU. I bet that everyone who reads this blog has, at one point or another, witnessed a friend or relative sacrificing form to do something that they are “not ready for.” And I get it, you feel like you have to give something a try in order to at least know, right?? Well…no…not really. For some people, S.M.A.R.T. Goals include a lot of things, and we all know it depends on how much you can dead lift. Always make sure that you are setting goals that YOU want to achieve, not goals someone else may want for you. And here’s a helpful hint…if you have to sway your body or use unnecessary leverage to perform an exercise, you might be letting your ego get the best of you!! Use a lighter weight, think about the muscle/muscles involved, and proceed carefully.
Improper shoulder raises or presses are a perfect example we see in our Men’s Camp or Personal Training clients. We notice people clinching their glutes, locking their legs, leaning back, and then slinging those dumbbells up there and quickly letting them crash back down to their sides. The first step is to use a weight you can control and perform the exercise properly. Maybe it’s not even your shoulders that weren’t ready for the lift–most likely it was your core! There is a tremendous amount of experience and understanding of the body that goes into effective strength training.
When you start using proper form, you will actually be able to feel the muscles you are working!! It is fantastic. If you are swinging your whole body on a front raise, then there is no way you can actually get the full benefit of the exercise, which is designed to work your front deltoid. While some exercises only target one muscle group, most of the exercises we like to perform are compound, but this does not make form any less important. Let’s take the Basic High Plank. This is an exercise that can mean more work and disappointing results if not done correctly!
Everyone knows these “How I Think I Look” memes, but why does it seem like no one bothers to change their form? They want to win the Guinness World Record for longest plank (silly). I hope I’m not the first to tell you this, but don’t be the elephant in the meme. Who cares if you only hold it for 10 seconds at a time at first. If you do it properly, you’ll be up to a full minute in no time, adding all sorts of fun stuff to the basic plank.
Since I picked on high planks and front raises, here is a description we send our Virtual Personal Training clients to help them understand what I am looking for:
Start on your mat on your hands and knees. Your hands should be directly under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Suck in your stomach, stretch one foot behind you until your heel is over the ball of your foot. (your foot should be bent) and then stretch our your other foot. Remain with your body weight forward over your wrists. Do not let your hips be in a position that puts pressure on your low back.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your stomach held in. Hold weights in both hands with your arms on the front of your thighs. Raise your arms in front of you to just higher than shoulder level, keeping your arms straight. Do NOT arch your back. Keep your neck long (meaning do not lift up your shoulders) Do not squeeze the dumbbell tightly. Do not squeeze your glutes. Do not lock your knees.