Exercise Form: The Most Overlooked Variable For Progress.



So you've tried everything... you got a new workout program, signed yourself up at the best equipped gym there is, you're lifting heavier, and even got a personal trainer to help you out. So, why are you still not seeing much progress?


For one, I'm appalled at the amount of trainers posting their clients online, showcasing a poorly executed exercise just for clout. If your trainer is not emphasizing form over any other variable, please use your legs to RUN AWAY!!!


Muscles need to be stimulated and under tension in order for it to breakdown its fibers, and rebuild itself back stronger and more defined. When we first start working out, that process occurs at a much faster rate, because any movement that's not a part of its everyday function is enough to stimulate it. So let's say, using light weights to perform biceps curls on someone who's never really done the movement consecutively more than once or twice, will stimulate it enough by performing a 10 consecutive reps for 2 sets. As training get more challenging, reps get higher, weights get heavier, those biceps are getting stimulated enough to be able to grow. However, why is it that after a certain period, it becomes harder to stimulate muscles. You can thank muscle adaptation principle for that!


Muscle adaptation principle states the body's ability to adapt to increasing and decreasing demands of physical stimulus. The more you workout, the more effective your muscles, and heart becomes at executing the exercises. The more sedentary you become, the lesser the muscle tone and more out of shape your heart will get.


As your body becomes more efficient at adapting to different workout variables, often times a very overlooked variable is actually form. Using your whole body to curl up that bar, curving your back during deadlifts, using momentum to press heavy weights over your head, are all hindering your progress. Proper form will ensure you're actually working the intendant muscle, will prevent you injuring yourself, and will allow your muscles to properly adapt and properly grow!


Most common exercises that gets overlooked for proper form are:

  • Squats

  • Overhead Presses

  • Chest Press

  • Push and Pulling Mechanics (ex: DB Chest Presses, Cable Rows)

  • Ab exercises

  • Deadlifts (Romanian Deadlifts)

  • Biceps Curls

  • Push-ups


Squats

Some people will let their knees cave inwards, even when the weights are not necessarily heavy. Their hips are usually tight, and the body is leaning forward excessively.

How to Fix it:

Eccentric (Lowering) Make sure to hinge back at your hips, keep legs shoulder width apart, maintain knees aligned with toes and don't let them cave inwards. As you lower more, maintain chest up and look straight ahead. Concentric (coming up) While coming up, make sure to do so by squeezing your butt muscles and pushing body weight through the back of your heels, while continuing to maintain knees aligned with toes.

Check Squat form


Overhead Presses

Some people will curve their lower backs as they press up, and will force their necks forward. They'll overextend their arms, and lock them on top.

How to Fix it:

Maintaining your spine in neutral position by bracing your abs (pulling the bellybutton in towards your spine), and maintaining the neck in a neutral position as you lift the weights overhead. Once on top of motion, never lock your muscles and overextend them, simply maintain a slight bent on elbows to keep the muscles under tension and not over rotate rotator cuffs.

Check Overhead Press


Dumbbell Chest Press:

Some people will hold onto dumbbells at a 90º angle with shoulders, and will lower weights too much.

How to Fix it:

Wether on a bench or an exercise mat, hold dumbbells with elbows slightly pointing downwards, with don't overextend wrists. Push Dumbbells up away, maintaining the same angle, and do not lock shoulders or elbows up. While lowering weights, make sure you stop once you reach chest height.

Check Chest Press


Push and Pulling Mechanics:

Some people will overextend their neck muscles forward while pushing in a standing position (standing cable chest press, standing cable chest fly, etc), and they'll do the same while pulling something from a standing and sometimes sitting position (Cable High Rows or Face Pulls, Cable Seated Rows, Lat Pulldown, etc). Also, some people will round shoulders forward while pulling.

How to Fix it:

Standing in a neutral position, making sure to brace your core, and maintaining your neck in neutral position throughout the movement. Another important component before pulling an object, is making sure to properly engage your Scapula to keep shoulders from rounding.

Push Mechanics Pull Mechanics


Abs

Some people will keep their lower backs rounded, and will cone their ab muscles while planking or during sit-ups.

How to Fix it:

Keeping your lower back flat against the mat before performing supine ab exercises, or keeping your core braced and modifying if necessary during planks, push-ups and such, will help you engage the Transversus Abdominis preventing coning. Properly working on Ab strength will prevent you from suffering back injury during exercises.

Basic Crunches Form


Deadlifts

Some people will curve their backs, round their shoulders forward, might cave their knees, and lock knees on top of the motion.

How to Fix it:

Lower to pick up weights. Concentric-Before coming up Brace your core (yes you've read it again, for any type of lifting bracing your core is 100% essential), while keeping your spine neutral and making sure to engage your scapula to avoid rounding the shoulders, come up keeping weights close to the body while squeezing your glutes. Once on top of the motion, do not overextend your knees, lower back and lock them. Get up to a straight position, maintaining a neutral spine and always keep your glutes engaged throughout. Eccentric- To lower, while hinging your hips back, continue to brace your core, and maintain weights close to your body. Keep your head straight, in order to make sure neck is neutral. Legs should be straight with a slight bend of knee in case of a Romanian Deadlift.

Romanian Deadlifts Form


Biceps Curls

Some people will round their shoulders forward, and will use momentum to curl heavier weights.

How to Fix it:

Maintaining spine in neutral position, core braced, and scapula engaged to keep shoulders from moving forwards, use only your biceps to curl. During the eccentric part of the movement (lowering of weights), make sure you do so consciously not to relax your back and shoulders, keeping all the tension on your biceps.

Check Biceps Curls


Push-ups

Some people will curve their backs, and flare out their elbows.

How to Fix it:

Brace your core, and maintain spine in neutral position while on top of the motion. Hands should be aligned with wrists, and angled slightly away from torso shoulder width apart. While lowering towards the ground, make sure elbows are pointing backwards slightly and NOT on a 90º angle. Make sure to engage scapula in order to avoid rounding of shoulders. Keep neck on a neutral position the whole time. Modify on your knees or elevated on a bench until strong enough to maintain proper form on the ground.

Check Push-Up Form


Remember, proper form is just as important for exercise progression as all other variables. So before bumping up the weights, reps and sets, make sure you're increasing your range of motion!




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