You’ve probably seen the lady hanging over the bars on the elliptical, or the guy who barely bends his arms while doing chest presses. Hopefully you know by now that when you do a squat, your knees should not extend beyond your toes. Seem a bit nit-picky? Maybe, but proper form is important while exercising. Not only does it ensure you are getting the benefit of the exercise, but proper form also helps prevent injury.
How do you know what proper form is for your selected exercise? Working with a personal trainer, even just for a few sessions, is a great way to learn proper techniques and form. It is an investment, but is well worth it in the long run. Learning how to properly do an exercise will allow you to see the results of the exercise sooner, and also help you avoid injuries, which would obviously set you back in your fitness quest. If you do decide to go it alone, here are some guidelines to follow to help you with your fitness form:
- Your movements should always be controlled. Translation: your muscles need to be engaged and tightened while performing most exercises, especially any involving weights. Engaging muscles means you are performing the exercise in the most efficient way, and channeling the stress to the proper places. To test this, you should be able to stop a movement at any point (at least briefly). If you are using momentum, instead of controlled movement, you risk joint injury because you are causing stress in unintended areas of the body.
- Stop hanging on the support bars. Most cardio equipment includes support bars for balance. It is a safety feature. The support bars are not intended for you to hang on while exercising, but rather to hold onto loosely to prevent a fall. Hanging on the bars defeats the purpose of the exercise by taking much of the weight off your lower body. In addition, it adds stress to your upper body/shoulders and can result in tight/sore muscles.
- When doing resistance exercises, use the full range of motion for the best results. For the weekend warrior athlete, performing an exercise from using the full range of motion (from the extended state to the flexed state), helps with efficiency of movement. Using only one portion of the full range of motion only improves the efficiency of movement for that particular portion of the movement. There is some benefit to doing an exercise using only partial range of motion, but this should be balanced by repeating the exercise using the remaining range of motion, too.
Here are some guidelines for improving your form:
- Take a step back in intensity/speed/weight. It is easier to focus on your form at a less challenging level. Once you feel you have gained some mastery of your form, go ahead and slowly work up the intensity.
- Use mirrors. Using a mirror to check your form is not vain. It is smart. Turn so you have the proper view, depending on the exercise. After you have the form down, you will most likely be able to feel if you start to slip back to old habits.
- If your budget allows, work with a personal trainer. Most gyms offer a free session to new members so you can learn the ropes. Gyms don’t want to see you get injured any more than you do, so take advantage of that perk. Mile High Fitness & Wellness has personal trainers that come to you in your home or office. Contact us today to learn more about our personal training program and to receive a free phone consultation to see how we can help you with your fitness goals.