It’s easy to practice good form with a trainer or friend by your side to help you. But, what about when you’re getting in an Aaptiv sweat sesh at home, in a park, or really anywhere else? It isn’t quite as simple to know if you’re practicing the right alignment—but it’s still crucial that you do! According to Fitness Expert and Professional Trainer Ambyr Chatzopoulos, CSCS, correct form can make or break your training goals. Not practicing accurate postures increases your risk of injury and doesn’t allow you to target the correct muscle groups. So, it’s important that you know how to maintain proper form on your own. Here, the pros give you their best tips to keep you safe and strong.
Start with basic, unweighted movements.
Complex high-intensity or weighted movements help define your body. But before you dive in, Chatzopoulos says to start simpler. When you master the basic foundation of exercises with correct form, you’ll be better prepared to advance your routine. She suggests beginning with a glute bridge, a squat, or a plank. Pay attention to where your muscles are ignited and engaged along every step of the way.
Or, another way to check form yourself, according to Personal Trainer Rocky Snyder CSCS is to answer three questions with each position. The questions will vary, depending on the move. For instance, Snyder explains, when performing a squat: Are the feet parallel? Do the hips begin the movement? Does the spine become parallel to the shins at the bottom of the movement? These would be elements to watch out for.
Video record yourself working out.
We don’t recommend scrolling your phone too much during your workout, but you can use your smartphone to improve your posture! As Lead Trainer at HK Fit Steph Wilberding explains, it might feel awkward to record your workout. However, when you can see how your body moves in real time, you’ll have a better understanding of your areas of weakness and how to check form yourself. Consider playing it back with a fitness-loving friend or a trainer, who can provide suggestions for you to incorporate into your next fitness hour.
If you’re in pain, stop.
The ‘no pain, no gain’ philosophy? Exercise Physiologist and Author Jerry Snider says it couldn’t be less accurate—or more dangerous. Sure, a bit of soreness after a workout or a comfortable strain is normal. But, if you’re in extreme discomfort, it is time to stop—ASAP. In addition to pushing far beyond your current fitness level, you could be exerting energy in improper form. “Not pain because you are physically weak, but the pain of ‘that didn’t feel good.’ If you are having pain in your joints while doing the exercise, you need to get your form looked at,” Snider advises.
Stand in front of a mirror.
Snider says that no matter the type of exercise—from yoga and boxing to running and rowing—there’s no better way to check form yourself than to watch. This is where a mirror comes in handy. “I instruct all my running athletes to stand in front of a full-length mirror and run with their upper body only,” he adds. This means, standing in place but using your arms to go through the range of motion you would during a run. “Focus on the proper form of arm swing, shoulder and head angles, and breathing for three to five minutes. Proper form is all about repetition, the more you use proper form the more natural it becomes,” he continues.
Don’t go 100 percent out of the gate.
Much like not tapping into advanced motions before you’re ready, Snider also stresses the importance of easing into a workout slowly. If you go out of the gate at 100 percent and your alignment is off, your injury or pain could be that much more intense. If you’re lifting weights, he says to start at 50 percent of what you normally would. “This should be very easy on your muscles and will give you the ability to go slow through each rep while teaching your body the proper range of motion for each lift,” he explains. As you gain confidence, you can up the weight, while maintaining posture.