Max Swahn

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Working out the Right Way: Proper Form is Key

 

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by Max Swahn

 

Whether you are a beginner or a professional, male or female, young or old, there is a right way and a wrong way to work out.  You may be hitting the gym to get healthy, achieve a particular body physique, prepare for a competition, recover from an injury, or simply to relieve some stress.  Regardless of your motives, one of the most important factors to consider is proper form while exercising.  It is the foundation for a successful workout.

Every exercise is different, and the intent here is not to outline the specifics of the proper form for particular exercises (as even the experts may disagree on this), but to outline the fundamental benefits of achieving proper form.    

Simplistically, basic proper form is how you execute the exercise. Some of the aspects relating to proper form include time under tension, angle of movement, and range of motion - not the amount of weight or the number of repetitions per set.  Don’t compare yourself to others.  Everyone is different.  It doesn’t matter how much the person next to you is lifting.  Focus on you; your body, what it is capable of achieving.  In a sense - leave your ego at the door. 

Especially as a beginner, or someone recovering from an injury, it is important to take your time. Don’t go too fast.  If you are not sure of the proper form, meet with a certified personal trainer or take an introductory class focusing on the fundamentals so that you can establish a good foundation. A safe and effective workout is the goal.

Using the wrong form can make your workout ineffective.  You may be targeting a specific muscle group, but due to your positioning you may not hit that target at all – leading to improper muscle development and frustration that you are not seeing the results you desire.  Even worse, improper form can easily lead to injury.  Depending on the exercise, improper form can lead to stress on (or damage to) the joint, tears or damage to ligaments and tendons, lower back pain or even stress fractures.  Injuries requiring surgical repair can be devastating to both the mind and body.   

Now compound that with the wrong choice of weight.  Using too heavy a weight can undermine your form and lead to injuries like those mentioned previously.  Couple improper form and too much weight and disaster can strike – injury and time away from the gym resulting in setbacks from all your hard work.  Why risk it?  Start out with a lighter weight. This allows you to focus on the perfecting the ideal form. 

A blogger on Bodybuilding.com outlines 3 key benefits of using lighter weights:

  • First, the muscle is lifting a weight that it can manage; therefore, the possibility of injury is reduced
  • Second, using the lighter weight allows total and complete control of the exercise
  • Third, the lighter weight allows you to focus on contracting the muscle to the fullest, rather than focusing solely on hoisting the weight to complete the repetition

If you can’t achieve proper form even with light weights, it is possible your body just isn’t capable of performing that particular exercise due mobility issues, previous injury, etc. Fortunately, there are endless exercises and another choice may be the right one for you.  Don’t give up.

Remember, don’t compare yourself to others.  Even if 2 individuals did the exact same workout, the results will be different. Genetic makeup, dietary intake, form and focus are just some of the factors that can lead to different results. Don’t cheat yourself.  Figure out what is right for you.  No one can guarantee that you will never experience an injury while working out, but common sense and using the proper techniques will go a long way towards reducing that risk.

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