What is good form?
Everyone tells us to train with good form, but WTF does that even mean? There is NO one size fits all answer to form. What works for one person may not work for others. We all have different length arms and legs, different flexibility and different strength curves. This is the reason form will be different for every person.
Whilst there may be slight differences, there are a few general rules to follow when training.
The back is a complex and sensitive part of the body and is usually the cause of many injuries. When carrying out any type of exercise you should always to keep a flat back. Try and keep your core braced (pulling your ribs towards your hips) and ensure your hips are tucked under your body. This may take some practice, but always ensure your body is tight and contracted prior to performing any exercises.
Full Range Of Motion (ROM)
This will differ per person and per exercise. This will require you to practice and feel your muscles when training. Full ROM should be between the extremities at which your muscles are still under tension. If you are performing a leg press concentrating on quads then as soon as the tension on your quads is lost (by coming down too far) you are at one end of your ROM. The other end will be with legs as straight as possible without locking your knees.
Time under Tension
This is exactly what it says on the tin. It is the amount of time your muscles are under tension during a given exercise. By keeping the tempo of the exercise slow and controlled you will be ensuring you are lifting safely and under control. This won’t always be applicable, especially with speed and power work but works as a general rule.
This is one of my biggest pet hates. Form, or lack of it, is very common in most gyms. You don’t have to look far to see noodle arms swinging up the 30 kg dumbbell into a bicep curl-esqe style. I can’t work out if he is trying to do a bicep curl or an upright row. Or even on the cardio machines you see people using the highest incline possible but then making a lot easier by holding on.
Whilst it is easy to make fun of these people training poorly, it is usually very dangerous. Whilst the chances of them bursting into flames are slim, the chances of muscular, postural and even ligament damage is high.
It is an awkward place to be watching someone with poor form. Do I go and tell them, usually ending into an argument and denting the ego? Do I film them and put it on YouTube for everyone to see? Or do I just do the very British thing of rolling my eyes, tutting quietly and continuing with my work out? I still don’t know! I usually opt for number 3. If I am personal training someone it is a different story, I will be giving constant feedback and exercise cues.
Ego is a massive reason why people love to lift heavy. The age old question of “how much do you bench bro?” still lives on. This mainly applies to the blokes but is becoming a lot more popular for the ladies too. A minimum of 5 blokes huddled around the squat rack whopping and hollering going for the 4th 1 rep max this week is not uncommon. Once upon a time I used to give a shit about how much I lift, but now I’m more interested in progress and intensity. My answer to “how much do you bench bro?” is “who cares?”
Leave your ego at the door. Train with an intelligent thought out structured process. You don’t have to go #beastmode every workout.
There are rare occasions I will step in to help someone with bad form (it’s not because she is an attractive lady) and that is because of safety. If you see anyone that looks like they are about to drop a weight on their face or get tangled upside down on the TRX, just ask if they need a hand.
Train with weights that you can handle safely. If you are pushing the boundaries a little then ask for a spotter. This will give you a bit more confidence that things are not about to go drastically wrong. The longer you can train without an injury, the more progress you can make.
Which muscle are you actually working?
Before we even walk in the gym we have to ask ourselves a few questions (not out loud, people will think you are weird).
What is the purpose of this session? If you are following a schedule or plan, then there should always be an aim to a particular session. Whether the session is to increase speed, power or to grow a particular muscle group you still need a purpose. If you don’t know the aim of the session and you are winging it, then let me help and fill in the form below.
Which muscle or muscle groups am I trying to work? When you know what you are intending to work, you can concentrate on that body part and ensure you are not cheating yourself. If you are working biceps, then ensure you are contracting them instead of using your back.
Form is very individual and specific but there are still a few basic rules to follow. If you are ever unsure about how an exercise is carried out then just ask. The longer you can progress without injury the more progress you can make. Look after your body as you aren’t getting a replacement when this one is knackered.
The brains, brawn and beauty of Dackattack (basically it’s just me). A personal trainer with a private gym in Norwich, dedicated to giving out simple, actionable advice that will give you outstanding results.