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The Importance of Maintaining Proper Form

Posted May 24, 2010 by

Have you ever been in the gym and seen someone performing bicep curls, swinging the weights around in an awkward and dangerous-looking manner?  Not only does this look ridiculous, but it also severely hinders their fitness efforts and could in fact lead to an injury. Typically, gym-goers focus too much on the amount of weight they’re lifting, rather than on manner in which they lift it. This is ironically the opposite of what you should do. Resistance training is not simply about quality or quantity—it’s about both quantity AND quality.  That being said, the quality of your lifts is more important because, as previously mentioned, proper lifting form will help avoid injury and maximize the results you get with whatever weight you use, through a combination of mind-muscle connection and time under tension (the amount of time you’re actively working at moving the weight).

Your body moves in an incredibly complex, synchronized fashion with all of the muscles pushing, pulling and stabilizing in tandem. Over time, as your daily routine takes its toll on your body, your muscles become imbalanced and your body finds new, easier paths of motion that works with these imbalances. These new patterns of movement may do their job temporarily, but they are far from ideal. Typically what happens is one muscle will become dominant and take over the role of movement that another, weaker muscle was supposed to perform. Unfortunately, the dominant muscle was not designed to handle this new movement safely and this can lead to injury.

This distorted pattern of movement is often an unavoidable circumstance—unnatural behaviors like sitting at a desk all day or sleeping on your stomach at night have become common-place in many people’s lives. While you can try to train yourself to sleep on your back, you can’t exactly walk into work and demand to have your cubicle refitted with an architect’s drawing table that you can stand at! However, while the circumstance can’t always be avoided, the effects can be minimized or even reversed with proper corrective exercise, stretching and attention to form during resistance training.

Many personal trainers are trained in the field of corrective exercise/stretching and can be a valuable resource for you to safely achieve your fitness goals. A good trainer will also ensure that your form is perfect during each and every rep you perform during your resistance training. If you aren’t actively working to improve your form when lifting, you won’t be activating the correct muscles and thus won’t be working the muscles in the fashion that you intend (or often, at all).

So, back to our poor fellow wildly swinging dumbbells around in a half-baked attempt at bicep curls—by using his whole body’s momentum to move the weight, all the focus on the biceps is eliminated, and the muscles are likely not getting any significant workout at all, and certainly not getting an effective one.  Unfortunately, he will continue to toil hopelessly in the gym and wonder why his muscles are not growing and his strength is not increasing, until he either gives up or someone explains the importance of form to him. So, remember, it’s not about the weight you use—it’s about HOW you use that weight!