Personal Trainer’s Guide to Proper Form and Technique
Quantity is not the most important factor when gauging the effectiveness of a workout. If you haven’t heard this statement before it’s time you pay attention and implement this.
Whether working out at home or at the gym, most people are more concerned about completing their daily requirement of ‘reps’. In the haste to complete their quota of the day and be free of the tedious workout, most people slack. I’ve seen many workout enthusiasts commit the same mistake and needless to say, they ended up getting injured.
A few years ago, I had a client who loved to do things his way. We ultimately began to see eye to eye but it wasn’t before he hurt himself after a day of working out in bad form. He wanted to impress his gym partner and so he paid attention to quantity rather than quality. It took a trip to the ER and a week of physiotherapy to make him realize his mistake. These are just some things that we come across during personal training.
The number of reps does hold importance but when bad form is added to the equation, you can be sure that a disaster will strike. So whenever I get a new client for personal training, I hold a session where we discuss proper technique and form, and the importance of maintaining them. You can always compromise on the quantity and make up for it the next day. But if you try and compromise on the quality, you should be prepared to suffer the consequences.
From that thought-provoking introduction you must have guessed that today’s blog is about proper technique and form during workout. The title says so too!
What is Good Form
Good form is the proper way of doing a workout. By maintaining a good form you can make sure that you’re not vulnerable to injuries.
Good form for any workout must have these two characteristics.
- It must minimize the chances of injury for the person practicing the movement.
- It must employ efficient body mechanics, to maximize the available strength and energy of the movement.
A proper form and mastering the technique can take some people years, while others have achieved the same with ease. The difference lies in their basic understanding of good form and their determination to master the techniques.
Needless to say, people who have a good form can’t hide it. The fluency of their body movements is enough to determine the dexterity that good form can bring. A person who has good form moves with stability that proper technique can invoke. For a strained personal trainer, gauging this is easy and whenever one of my clients achieves this level, it’s a great day.
Importance of Good Form
So why is it so important to pay attention to form?
That’s an important question that everyone should know the answer to, especially if you are an avid gym-goer. You work hard to get the fit and healthy body you’ve always wanted. Imagine it all going to waste because of a simple mistake. Wouldn’t that be devastating?
So, in order to ensure that your workouts are effective and do you good, you need to practice proper form and technique. Let’s take a look at some of the factors that make workout quality an important aspect of your fitness regime.
Proper Technique = Maximum Efficiency
As I’ve already mentioned, having proper form will make sure you don’t get injured. Most people don’t give it much thought but even the slightest of mistakes can land you in trouble. There’s no question that the wrong form and technique will eventually take a toll on your health and fitness.
Each exercise is aimed for a certain part of the body. When you don’t use the right form during your workouts, the load is placed elsewhere. This can severely overstrain your body. When injuries occur, pain and discomfort aren’t the only inconvenience you have to face. In case of a serious injury, you might even have to give up on your workout regime. So take care.
The proper techniques are the most effective way of minimizing your efforts during workouts.
I once had a client who had been actively working out for the past year and yet had nothing to show for it. By the time she hired my personal trained services, she was ready to give up. Turned out her form was so bad it drained all the energy out of her. No matter how hard she tried, the workouts didn’t do her any good. After a few lessons she corrected her form and remarked how much easier the workouts actually were. Since she had bad form, the workouts took twice as long and strained her whole body.
The day you correct your form, you’ll realize what you’ve been missing out on. For some people the results aren’t so evident. You might not see your muscles tone out immediately but you’ll notice a significant difference in your strength and speed. By using the proper technique, you’ll be able to reach your fitness goal with fewer efforts.
To make my clients understand, I personally perform a workout two times, once with proper form and one without. Then I let the client point out the differences and let them decide which ones are the factors of good form. This simple exercise is enlightening and helps them understand the basics of proper form and technique.
Proper Form and Technique
Let’s find out some of the proper techniques that can help you get proper form and also save you from injuries.
Things to Keep in Mind
- Range of motion
Your spine is prone to injuries that bad form can cause so make sure your spine alignment doesn’t suffer. The lower back must remain flat or have a slight curve. That’s the natural shape of the spine and that’s how it should remain even during exercise. The only exception to this rule is when you are specifically targeting lower back.
For proper spine alignment, keep your chest up and out. You should retract your shoulders and by doing this you can keep your back in the natural curve. For exercises where torso alignment is important, you can tilt your pelvis forward. This will keep your back straight. For exercises where you want to work your hamstrings, again keep your chest up and out.
During resistance training, you would need proper alignment. The factor of gravity is of importance during resistance training and so you need to align yourself accordingly. When aligning your body, take into consideration the part that gravity will play. Keep all your joints aligned and if it helps, work with a partner at first to correct your form.
Things to Keep in Mind
- Range of motion
The decades old myth of not breaking the parallel is the biggest hurdle here. For many people this is the truth and so they refuse to budge. For joint alignment and effective results, range of motion plays a great role. When you go parallel, all the weight shifts off the shoulder and your rotator cuffs are the ones suffering. This can cause them serious injury. So make sure you break the parallel and go low.
There are times when joint alignment is not necessarily visible. Personal trainers have the experience to determine the balance. But if you don’t have professional training, the joint alignment might not always be visible. For instance, during shoulder press, the proper alignment for your wrists should be directly over your elbows. If the gap is wider than that, then it is called a ‘wide grip’ and if it’s inside the mentioned range then it is called ‘narrow grip’.
Form Mistakes that People Make without Thinking
I’ve decided to include in some of the most common exercise form mistakes that people make. I’m surprised to see seasoned exercisers making the mistakes that generally rookies make. That’s mostly because they didn’t get a deep understanding of the basics. This is why I’ve made it a habit to start with the basics whenever I get a new client for personal training. And that’s where I’m going to begin today.
As long as you understand the basics and are ready to follow the rules, there can be no stopping you.
So here are some of the mistakes that most people make that can significantly affect their workout regime. Go through these carefully and if you are making any of these mistakes, it’s high time you stop.
The main purpose of squats is to strengthen your legs and your range of motion. I’ve seen many people do standing squats. This is the improper form of squats and it happens when you don’t squat low enough. People squat and think that thighs being parallel to the floor are enough. It’s not. You must break the parallel and go low. Once you break the parallel, it’s time to squat back up. Remember to keep your knees out and your chest in.
Bench press is an excellent way to work your arms and abs. But you need to be careful because bad form can seriously injure you. Many times I’ve seen even the professional builders committing this mistake and they don’t know the grave consequences it can have. People flare their elbows when lifting. What this does is put more stress on the shoulder joints. The weight that is supposed to be shared by your arms and shoulder it entirely put on the shoulder. Not only does it make the exercise harder, but it can also cause serious injury to your shoulder joint.
The proper form of doing the bench press is to keep your elbows close to your ribcage. This way the load is equally distributed to your chest and arms.
Ignoring Usage of Legs
Bench press isn’t just for your upper body. If done in the right form, it is useful in tightening your lower body. Some people at the gym start doing bench press and don’t know what to do with their legs.
The right way to do bench presses is to drive your legs into the ground and hold them there. Make sure your butt remains on the bench sat all times. Now with this form, you’ll tighten your lower body when lifting and, it will gradually boost your strength and stability.
As I’ve mentioned above, your spine alignment is especially importance during workout. If you don’t pay attention to it you can seriously harm yourself. And so another common mistake that people make is arching their backs when they push ahead. People who lack shoulder mobility are more prone to commit this serious mistake.
The right way to perform this move is to squeeze your core and glutes as hard as you can. This will provide you with the strength you need to push the weight safely.
In this blog we have discussed some of the things that can affect your form. Make sure you understand the basics of good form because without that knowledge you’ll keep committing mistakes. Your body might be able to bear it once or twice but using bad form continuously is eventually going to cause some serious injury. I’ve seen it happen and some people haven’t even recovered from their injuries even years later.
Pay attention to the factors mentioned here. If you need more guidance, it’s always a best idea to avail the services of a personal trainer. If that’s what you need, do not hesitate! Don’t risk injury from bad form and the best way to do is by getting professional help.