Adding on another set of plates or moving up to a bigger barbell is always a great feeling. Cheers all around for getting stronger. Unfortunately, and probably unintentionally, those weight additions often come at the expense of something else: proper form.
Incorrect form is one thing that will always make a trainer wince. Proper mechanics are crucial for weight lifting. Poor form is not only inefficient, but it can also lead to injuries. And it may even mean you aren’t working the muscles you want to.
“With proper mechanics, the exercise will work the muscles you intended to work thus making it focused and efficient,” explains Jennifer Giamo, Aaptiv trainer and owner of Trainers in Transit. “For example, if you perform a chest or bench press with incorrect form, you may end up using your shoulders and triceps, not your chest.”
No matter what your weightlifting goals are, proper form is your first and most important step. Whether you’re looking to tone or bulk, technique is more impactful than the amount of weight you use. You simply won’t get the same results with bad form.
So, to help you nail it everytime, keep scrolling for some tips and tricks to help you put form first-and why it matters that you do.
As you add more weight to your routine, your chance of injury is going to increase, especially if you’re form is off. Incorrect alignment will put uneven, and eventually unmanageable, stress on your muscles, joints, and tendons.
“Improper lifting mechanics will cause strength imbalances and poor joint stability,” says James Camastra, co-owner of Progressive Personal Training. “Whenever there is a weak link in a chain, you are susceptible to injury. Especially, when it comes to repetitive movements and sudden reactive stresses,”
That’s when tears and strains happen. You’re also opening the door to more serious injuries, like to your back or knees.
Prioritize A Plan
Have a plan going into the gym, especially if weight lifting is new to you. Think about what muscle groups you want to work and what exercises you’ll perform.
If you’re a veteran lifter, but haven’t consciously focused on form, turn your warm-up into a mechanics workshop. Drop down the weight you’re lifting and really scrutinize your form. Once you feel like you’ve gotten it right for you, then add the weight back on.
If you’re unsure about a certain lift technique, ask a trainer to help you out. Even just one session focused on form will be worth it.
Don’t Stress About One Perfect Form
There isn’t one perfect way to lift weight. Your best form is going to depend on your body. But, there are still a few things to focus on. Camastra has some general tips:
When you do lunges your upper body from your waist up should look like a statue. A good stable core will prevent movement, increasing efficiency and decreasing changes of injury.
For bench press: if the legs, hips, and spine are moving you are increasing your chances of injury.
Slower reps build more strength and mass. Faster reps build more power and can be more functional.
Remember To Breathe
Alignment is so important, especially when it comes to your spine. Before you begin any exercise, make sure you’re standing up straight. Try to keep that alignment throughout your workout. Allowing your back to curve may put pressure on your vertebra, which could lead to slipped discs.
Breathing, too, comes into play when it comes to keeping good form. “We often hold our breath when lifting, especially if the weight is too heavy,” says Giamo. “But the proper breathing form when lifting is inhale on the eccentric contraction (relaxed phase) and exhale on the concentric (contracted phase) of the movements,” says Giamo.
So, for example, when you do a bicep curl: exhale as you bend your elbow to lift the weight up. And inhale as you straighten your arm again.
For strength training workouts to gain muscle or get back into shape, check out the Aaptiv app. Our trainers will guide you through your workouts.