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Understanding Proper Form

Posted by Stuart Smith on

Understanding Proper Form
By Sean Sarantos BenchPress_09566_rtOne of the biggest topics I always speak about is FORM!  Why?  Because so many folks screw this up!  Being brand new in the gym/home, we allow ourselves to be taught on how to perform exercises by how others around us are doing them.  WRONG!  Although some might be doing it right, MOST are doing it wrong.  And all that does is open up a butt-load of doors for future injuries. Proper form serves 2 purposes.  The first is to reduce the risk of injury.  The second is to maximize the potential effect of exercise.  Seeing that strength training puts stress on various types of joints, it only solidifies the importance of form for each exercise to reduce the probability of injury.  Just to give you a little example, here are a few injuries that commonly occur with improper form:
  • Dislocations
  • Sprains
  • Fractures
  • Tendinitis
And that’s not even the worst of it!  You can also get more serious ones such as:
  • Nerve Damage
  • Rotator Cuff Damage
  • Bone-Stress Related Injuries
  • Muscle Overload
So how do we make sure we have correct form?  Like most things in life it’s all about trial and error.  We can go in with a plan but most times it takes a little practice in order to get in the groove.  No worries.  I’m going to give you 5 tips to help get you on the right path to better form!
  1. DON’T FORGET TO BREATHEIt might seem like an easy task but for some reason a lot of folks have an issue with controlling their breathing when performing a repetition.  As a general rule try to breath out when performing the harder movement of the exercise and breathe in during the easier portion.
  2. LIFT THE PROPER AMOUNT OF WEIGHTThis is a big part of where trial and error comes into play.  I tend to stick around 6-12reps with moderate weight.  Studies have shown that this has the greatest outcome of muscle growth because it gives the benefits of both the high rep (with light weight) and low rep (with heavy weight) workouts.   The 6-12 reps should NOT be easy by any means.  If you are blowing through them with ease you need to increase the resistance.  The goal is to be tired and feel that the muscles have been challenged at the end of the set.
  3. DO NOT OVERLOAD ON SETSWhen setting up a set/rep outline usually 1 set to failure is good enough to mix in.  Any extra sets to failure will mostly cause you to waste your time and even cause muscle overload.  Like I said 2-3 sets of 6-12 reps with an added set to failure at the end is fine.  But making almost all the sets to failure?  Yea, that serves no point other than to completely wipe you out and not give the benefits you are looking for strength and muscle growth wise.
  4. DO NOT RUSH ITThis can be used to talk about several things in training.  But for here I’m talking about being patient with progress and also controlling the tempo of your movement.   I’ve seen many people lift much heavier weight with bad form then with correct form.  Instead of being patient with the fact that they will go back to that weight and surpass it in time with proper form, they let their ego get the best of them and decide lifting the heavy weight NOW is more important!  Do NOT fall into this trap!  Somewhere down that path an injury is most likely to occur.  One that will sideline them from lifting for who knows how long!   When they come back they will not only fail to lift that same weight with bad form, they will fail to lift anything near what they were doing regardless!  And all of this could have been prevented if ego was put aside.  Avoid jerking the weight up. Lift and lower weight in a slow, controlled manner. This helps you focus on good form, stay in tune with your muscle groups by isolating them, and doesn't let you use momentum to "cheat" while lifting.
  5. AIM FOR BALANCEWhen I say this folks tend to think I’m speaking about working different muscle groups on different days.  As important as that is it’s not what I’m talking about.  I speaking to the guy who only does flat bench on chest days, or hamstring curls on leg day.  There is more than 1 side to a muscle group!  You need to open your mind to the fact that there are upper, mid, and lower chest workouts.  That quads are just important as hamstring curls, and that there’s not only a front portion of a muscle but usually a side and back as well!  Being balanced means giving each muscle the time and attention it deserves.
I hope that with these tips (and many more you can easily research) you hit that weight room with a better game plan then I had starting out.  In the end you have to remember that you are going into the gym with a mission!  Whether it’s to impress the opposite sex or make a life change to live longer, you are going with a goal in mind.  Take THAT seriously and keep it at the forefront of your head every time you take those steps through the gym door. I’m BEAST SPORTS NUTRITION athlete Sean Sarantos, and I’m challenging YOU to Live Like a BEAST!