Weight Training 101: Why Form Matters

Some things in life are open to interpretation. Unfortunately, proper form in the weight room is not one of them. Take a walk through any gym and you will likely see a room full of people performing the same lifts in a slightly different manner. There is only one reason for this. Some of them are performing those lifts incorrectly.

The truth is that not everyone is a natural at lifting weights. Some of us feel awkward under the pressure of weight bearing exercise. At moments the angles are uncomfortable and there are a few too many body parts to coordinate all at once. If you find yourself nodding your head in agreement, then this article is definitely for you. If you are not nodding your head in agreement and believe that you have the weight room all figured out, then this article might still be for you. The truth is that form is important and even the most seasoned professional might need to polish things up a bit.

Executing lifts properly is important because doing so helps to prevent injury and ensures that the proper muscle is being targeted. It also ensures that said muscle is being worked to its full capacity. Spending hours in the weight room might do wonders for your ego, but without proper form it does nothing for your muscles. To more closely demonstrate this point let’s dissect a squat. A squat is meant to be performed with the chest up and out.fullsizerender-5fullsizerender-6 The butt should move back and down (as if one is sitting into a chair). The knees should be positioned over the heels (never extending forward over the toes) and the legs should form a 90 degree angle at the lowest point of the exercise. Dropping the chest, or pushing the knees forward, can easily result in injury. Failing to drop low enough into your squat prevents the intended muscles from being targeted. This results in limited, if any, progress. Considering adding more weight? Don’t bother. Without proper form additional weight will do nothing.

There is no doubt that form is crucial in the weight room, but what are some tips to ensure that proper form is being executed? The first is pretty basic. Partner up. Lifting with a buddy is a great way to gain an outsider’s perspective. Often times we feel as if our form is on point when it couldn’t be further from the mark. A second pair of eyes can easily clear up the confusion and help to get us back on track.

The next tip is to bring in a trainer. Sometimes all we need is a few words of wisdom and a quick lesson on proper execution. Seeking out a trainer, even if it’s only for a single session, can be incredibly helpful. A trainer can offer pro tips, critique your form, and explain each phase of a lift in easy to understand terms. Not up for seeing a trainer on a regular basis? No problem. Just checking in with a trainer periodically can help to correct any bad habits or incorrect postures that may have developed or crept back into your lift sessions.

Another great tip is to video record yourself performing each exercise. Seeing is believing and we often do not know how bad our form is until we see it with our own eyes. Recording yourself can help you to see exactly where you need to improve and where you are spot on. It can even help you to track your progress from week to week.

Weight training is about more than just lifting heavy dumbbells. It requires attention to detail and may take a little practice to perfect. The good news is that you don’t have to become a professional overnight. Every lift session is an opportunity to perfect each move and improve your overall form. Try to remember that living a healthy lifestyle is a lifelong process. It is not about achieving immediate perfection, but rather moving toward the best version of yourself at a pace you can handle. Focusing on form in the weight room might mean taking a step back in order to move forward. Decreasing weight in order to focus on the precision of each move might actually be the best way to improve overall. In any case, do not be discouraged. You will likely be surprised to see how significantly your gains increase once form is perfected and the proper muscles are being worked. Best of luck and happy lifting!


Do You Even Lift Bro? Why I Finally Stopped Whining and Began a Proper Weight Training Routine

Weight bearing exercise is important. This is true for a variety of reasons. First, muscle is more metabolically active than fat and other body tissue. If you are trying to slim down, then building muscle will quickly help you on your way. While all of that extra fat just hangs around making you look dumpy, muscle actually burns a good chunk of calories regardless of your activity level throughout the day. Weight training is also a great way to increase bone density. All of that pulling and tugging on your bones helps to strengthen them and stave off such maladies as osteoporosis. That being said, I am the first to admit that weight training has not always been a part of my to-do list. Although I have lightheartedly tossed around a few weights in the past, I have never had a very serious routine. For this reason, I have never seen a lot of serious progress. This past year I have finally decided to take the leap. I have recruited a trainer to develop a weight training plan and teach me the joys of lifting. Here are a few things I have learned along the way.

  1. Lifting is not really that bad – In fact, it is quite rewarding. Personally, I have found that cardio comes with an immediate feeling of accomplishment. It clears my head and relaxes my mind. Throughout a 3 mile run I can feel my lungs working, my heart pumping, and my muscles constantly moving. This is a feeling that I do not tend to have while lifting. Lifting is slow paced and it targets only a few muscles at a time. A lifting session is not about working your body from head to toe. It is about working a particular set of muscles with intention and focus. Although the muscles become exhausted during the actual workout, the feeling of accomplishment comes some time later. It is in the soreness that appears later in the day while you are attempting to walk up the stairs or load the dishwasher. That pain that reminds you of how hard you have worked in the gym. That pain that makes you anxious to get back in the weight room because, despite the difficulty it creates as you attempt to roll out of bed in the morning, it is evidence that you are making progress.
  2. Lifting is the best way to change your shape – We often toss around terms such as apple and pear. Terms which make reference to the location of our body fat. When it comes to reshaping our bodies, few can dispute the importance of weight training. Proper diet and exercise will eventually help you lose weight, but weight training builds lean muscle and creates the toned, fit appearance most of us are hoping for. In other words, if you want to be a smaller apple, do cardio. If you want to change your shape, lift weights.
  3. Buddy up – I used to be a solo lifter. My goal was to get in and get out. I wasn’t a fan of the process, so I didn’t want it to take too much time. As of late I have had a change in heart. A workout tends to change when you stop rushing through it and instead take the time to enjoy it. Lifting with a buddy helps to keep you on track. It also allows you to push yourself further, as your “buddy” can be used as a spotter. This might seem like common sense to most weight lifters, but to those of us who have never been very serious in the weight room, it is a new anomaly.

In a nutshell, weight training is important. Lifting is not really that bad, it is the best way to change your shape, and it works best with a buddy. If you are looking to seriously improve your health and wellness, then weight training should be a part of your agenda. We tend to lose muscle as we age, therefore it is important to be proactive. The best way to counteract muscle loss is to hit the weights. If you have yet to venture into the weight room, then I encourage you to give it a shot. It might just be the piece of the puzzle that you have been searching for.