Why form is so critical to exercise results
If you want to get fitter, they say the approach is simple: you start lifting heavy things and put them down again. While this is an incredibly simplified approach to the idea of exercise, it leaves out one essential component that could not just make or break your exercise results, but your whole relationship with exercise.
We hear about the importance of having proper form, but when we go to a gym and feel intimidated by others lifting twice or three times their body weight, we feel that we need to play catch up. In fact, any personal trainer worth their salt will tell you about the importance of form over function and an accredited personal trainer who's undergone a personal trainer course will understand the fundamentals of form and why it's so important. Here is why form is critical to your exercise results:
We are currently in the age of functional fitness, which is a term used to describe working with your body to do things in real life rather than going to the gym for the sake of deadlifting three times your body weight.
Incorrect form can have a detrimental effect. Your body should not be put under unnecessary strain, which is why incorrect form could result in pain, excessive inflammation, and injury. Our bodies are aligned a certain way, and going against this alignment can put uneven stress on our muscles, joints, and tendons (the connective tissue that links the muscles to the bone). This can lead to strength imbalances and poor joint stability over time.
Correct form will ensure that you are targeting the intended muscles for a specific exercise. For example, doing a bicep curl with incorrect form could result in engaging different muscles, such as the core, rather than the bicep itself. Compound movements, such as squats, engage so many different muscles, including the core, the quads, and the shoulders, so it is important to not lift beyond your capable strength.
This is a mistake that so many people make because when they start to lift weights beyond their means, they start to contort their body to compensate in the hope that lifting the weight up and putting it down will result in those all-important gains. Form is something that we should practise to ensure that our body is in good posture with each exercise, and we must avoid using momentum to complete the exercise.
Using the correct form will ensure that you are activating the right muscles and joints, which will result in more complete extension and contraction of muscles, leading to better muscle development. Another common misconception with people just starting to exercise is thinking that, as long as they are able to lift the weight up and put it down, this will bring benefits.
However, if you are targeting strength in a particular area or are looking to develop the muscle of a certain part of the body (known as hypertrophy), it is essential to place the right level of tension on the muscles, which is crucial to stimulating strength and muscle growth.
There is another misconception about exercise that, to have an effective workout, you have to completely beat yourself up. Exercise has a plethora of benefits on the mind and body when done with the right dosage. Many exercise gurus, such as Pavel Tsatsouline, who is widely known for bringing the kettlebell to the West, say that you should always finish a workout feeling stronger, not weaker.
The physiology of exercise is relatively straightforward: you give your body a stimulus that it is not used to, and you allow time, rest, and nutrition for the body to make the necessary changes to ensure you can deal with that stimulus next time around. Therefore, expending more energy than necessary is not just ineffective for the exercise but it can also be ineffective for your life. Using improper form, such as leaning too low or far back or bending, you are expending more energy than is necessary, resulting in wasted motion and therefore can fatigue quicker.
Proper form is about performing a move safely. We have to remember that improving our strength should be about improving our mobility in relation to that specific stimulus.
Being able to utilise the full range of motion during an exercise means increasing the potential for strength and will result in better performance. Simply put, proper form can enhance your performance level; you will be able to lift more, run faster, or perform any other exercise more effectively.
● Stay in control, ensuring your movements are slow and focused and making sure your weight is evenly distributed.
● Record your workouts and compare them with online demonstrations to identify any incorrect movements.
● Avoid using momentum and focus on the slower and more controlled movements over how much you can lift.
● Choose exercises and weights that match your current fitness level, ensuring that you adhere to the protocol of progressive overload, which involves increasing the weight or intensity by small increments.
● Ensure your body is in good posture during each exercise, paying particular attention to the alignment of your neck, shoulders, back, and hips.
● Pay attention to engaging the correct muscles and avoiding distractions to ensure strong muscle engagement.
● Consider consulting an accredited personal trainer to ensure you are using the right form and technique.
Often overlooked but critically important, maintaining proper form during exercise is essential for so many different reasons. As we get older, we can start to notice the signs of imbalances in the body. Exercising with proper form can worsen those imbalances, which is why it's far more important to start light. We don't need to get strong overnight, and using the right form and focusing on this rather than sets, reps, and weights will not just give us superior results, but will ensure we are far healthier in the long run.
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