How technique builds muscle, strength and health.
Form is all about the way that you move during an exercise. It’s about the positions you hit and how well you move.
We’ve all admired someone for showing great form and smooth movements, but it’s about more than just looking pretty. Improving your form or technique will boost your results and keep you healthy.
We’re going to share the important stuff you need to know: the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ of lifting form.
HOW BAD FORM HURTS YOU
The first thing to know is that bad form is a real risk. If you’re holding poor positions, or you’re not able to control your body, you’re going to hamstring your progress and put yourself in danger.
RISK OF INJURY
Poor form contributes to an increased risk of injury in the muscles and joints, which can put a serious halt on your progress. Rounded backs, poor control of joints or ego-lifting are all ways of damaging these important tissues.
BAD FORM = LESS RESULTS
If the prospect of injuring yourself isn’t enough motivation to improve your form, there’s also the fact that you’re going to see less results in general. Good form is about efficiency as well as safety: better form means improved force output, stability and using muscles correctly.
This is especially true if you’re looking for strength or size. Using the right muscles, in the right sequence, in the proper range of movement, is going to maximise activation. From the bicep curl to the back squat, cutting the movement short or losing control puts the load on the wrong tissues and slows down your progress.
Also, if you lift with poor technique, you’re going to look a bit foolish: nobody likes an ego-lifter.
THE BENEFITS OF GOOD FORM
The main benefits of good form are tied into your ability to progress in the long-term. Sure, you might be able to lift more weight right now if you allow your back to round or cut the movement short, but your body adapts slowly, and patience is key to a killer physique.
Good positions and control will reduce joint injury and strengthen the muscles and joints. Correct positions also train the muscles in their full range, increasing strength gains. The squat is a great example: if you half-squat, you’ll only ever develop a short range of motion and you’ll fold as soon as you break parallel. If you trained full squats, you’d be stronger in both ranges.
EFFICIENCY AND PERFORMANCE
If you’re training for performance and want to build maximum strength, good form is going to be essential. Having a big squat or deadlift is a great way to develop strength, size and power, and the best way to achieve this is practicing good form.
A well-executed heavy compound lift requires you to use many muscle groups in sequence, and this can make a huge difference to the weights you can lift. These weights, in turn, improve your strength, power and muscle size.
Remember: you can load a safe, efficient pattern more rapidly and consistently. Faster long-term progress, reduced injury and no frustrating 6-month plateaus!
FORM: AN UNDERRATED TYPE OF PROGRESS
Getting better isn’t just about adding weight to the bar: you can make serious progress by simply altering the way that you move and improving your form. While it’s not as glamorous as throwing around bigger dumbbells or throwing more plates on the bar, adding to the length of your movement or performing it with more control is still progress.
This is great to remember when you’re thinking about how to progress, especially when you’re on a plateau with your training. Adding a pause, slow-eccentric or extra ROM to an exercise might not seem like the natural choice, but it can spur new growth and new results. Plus, it’s a great way to practice humility and really challenge yourself.
COMMON FORM MISTAKES AND EASY FIXES
This puts you at risk of knee injuries, weakness in a deep squat and looking like a total amateur. Start again with lower weights, focusing on positions and getting the full range of movement. It’s going to mean stronger legs and hips, as well as maintaining your dignity.
Putting weight on your back when you’re rounded is an easy way to cause disc damage and serious embarrassment. Focus on keeping the core and back tight, or simply lower the weight until you can perform the movement properly.
This is a common problem caused by weak glutes, a stance that is too wide, or simple bad habits. If you don’t fix it, you’re in for a round back and sore knees. Keep the feet under the hips screw your feet outwards, keeping the butt active while you lower and stand up.
ROUNDING THE SHOULDERS
If your shoulders come forwards as you press, you’re opening yourself up for dodgy joint balance and ultimately tears in the pec or rotator cuff. Keep the shoulder blades tucked back and down, squeezing the bench.
If your arms are parallel with the barbell, you’ve messed up somewhere. This puts the shoulders at risk and reduces tricep strength gains. Keep the elbows at a 45-degree angle to the body and keep them stable during the press.
We see it all the time. A rounded spine on the deadlift is a real injury risk for the muscles and the spine, and it’s going to reduce the amount you can lift. Keep the core and back tight and drill the positions with lower weights to develop consistency.
This is when the hips shoot up before the chest. It puts the weight through your toes and adds serious strain to the back. Strengthen the legs with lighter deficit deadlifts and higher reps with lower weight.
Even the humble bicep curl can be improved with good technique. You might have worked with the cheat curl on purpose before, but the strict curl has different levels of good and bad form.
Try you curls seated with a focus on keeping the elbows close to your body, lowering slowly, and going until the dumbbells are behind you. This change in form can provide a great training stimulus for improved size and strength. Adding length to your ROM is going to add inches to your guns.
Form isn’t just about looking smooth and bragging rights. The time you invest into improving your movement quality is an investment in your long-term progress and health. Aim at adding control, ROM and posture in your movements instead of just worrying about weight.