It’s that all so familiar situation, you’re sitting in the weights room, glaring over between sets and someone is attempting to perform a simple free weights exercise, terribly.
Maintaining the correct form throughout a free weights exercise is arguably the most important part of an exercise programme if you are to be successful in achieving your goals at the gym, and there are a number of consequences of not using the correct form.
The most harrowing of which being the obvious risk of injury.
Implementing the correct form will allow your muscles to safely contract and relax against the resistance of the weights throughout your workout and specific exercises and without the correct form, the joints that the body uses to complete the exercise will be under unnecessary pressure, creating a much greater risk of injury.
Incorrect form may not give you discomfort or pain on the day or day after your session, but can be a long term issue that will do serious damage, and you may not notice until it’s too late.
Take a leg press for example, if your hips, knees and ankles are not in the correct alignment, you could put excessive pressure on either of them, creating damage to the ligaments or tendons in the knee or ankle, making the ability and freedom to exercise a lot less frequent and comfortable, or just altogether reduce your range of movement.
With a leg extension, the hips should be at the same level as your knees on most occasions (unless you’re using a tilted leg extension), whilst your shoulders should be above your hips, which is known as hip-knee and shoulder-hip alignment. Without it, weight could be shifted to the lower back and will put your back at risk of unnecessary pressure.
Not using the correct form can also lead to training the wrong muscle. Form is not only there for your safety, but for your overall improvement to your strength and physique.
A smith machine chest press can be easily turned into a smith machine tricep press simply by holding the bar with your hands too close together, so make sure that you have the weights, your grips, and your body positioning in the right place in order to ensure you’re putting the right amount of pressure on the right muscle group.
Last but far from least, poor form will waste your time and money and it goes without saying time spent at the gym is invaluable, as is the membership fees!
So don’t waste your time or money on performing incorrect exercises, make sure your exerts are spent giving yourself the best chance of improving your strength and physique.
So how can you measure if your form is correct?
There are some very simple ways, every weights room has a mirror, doesn’t it? Well there’s your starting point, look in the mirror as you’re performing your exercises if you can, if it doesn’t look like you’re doing the exercise properly, you’re probably not!
Don’t use weights too heavy for you, it’s more important to use a lower weight and perform the exercise correctly than show off in front of your mates, cause they’ll be showing off in the changing rooms when their muscles are double the size of yours.
Correct form involves maintaining continuous body tension throughout your exercises, that’s how you control the weights you’re using, but make sure you don’t lock your joints, that will spell trouble.
A lack of body tension will make it difficult to control your weights or push yourself, or perform the perfect exercise.
Proper form is the ability to do the exercise at the correct pace, make sure you focus on the negative element of the exercise just as much as the positive side of it, take a dumbbell bench press for example, lowering the weights back to shoulder level after the initial movement is just as important as pushing them away from you.
If they come down too quickly, you’re not in control of the weights and therefore not using the correct form. Make sure you exercise through the full range of movement. The range of movement, or motion, is the distance between extension and flexed position.
The wider range of movement you use the higher percentage of the muscles you will be using throughout the exercise and therefore a higher chance of muscular hypertrophy. The narrower range of muscle motion you deploy, the quicker your reps will be, which as discussed already, will not aid your cause.
Remember, form is crucial, do not ignore it.