Good form helps us avoid injuries, get the most benefit from our efforts, and promotes good posture. Our exercise posture translates directly to our walking posture, standing posture and even our sitting posture, and may directly affect our breathing and digestion.
Often times we think we have correct form, when we really do not. Have you ever been out walking and caught a glimpse of yourself in a windowed store front or mirror, only to realize your posture (form) is far from correct? Perhaps your chin is jutting forward, your shoulders hunched, and your back rounded? When you notice, you immediately correct it, right?
This is why gyms have mirrors. It’s not to admire one’s hairdo. It’s so people can check to see if their feet are parallel to each other, or their knees are over their ankles, the shoulders even, their back straight, and so on. If you know what to look for, you can self adjust to keep yourself safe and get a better workout.
Let’s say you are interested in strengthening your legs, and decide to do lunges and squats. These are both great exercises if you do them correctly. If these are done with the knees bent forward of the toes, this can be harmful to the patellar tendon, the soft tissue that connects the leg muscles to the knee. Instead, make sure the knee does not extend past the ankle. It’s also important to ensure the knee does not collapse to the side.
A very common error is pulling on the head during crunches and sit-ups. Instead of working the abdominal muscles, the head is cranked up and down. This gives the feeling of lifting the upper torso, which is what we want, but does little to nothing for the abdominal muscles, and can injure the neck.
When working with weights, do not let gravity take over. After lifting a weight, it should be slowly lowered back down, staying in control throughout the movement. Also, do not use momentum to lift weights. This is dangerous and should be avoided. If this is happening, lessen the amount of weight you are using.
Make sure the neck doesn’t tense during exercise. This can create neck or shoulder pain and sometimes headaches. Try to keep the neck uninvolved while exercising. If this seems difficult, practice the movements with little to no weight until you’re able to do them without engaging the neck muscles. Then gradually add more weight.
I’ve seen people in a gym learn from watching strangers around them, and I’ve spoken with people who learn from magazines or the Internet. I do not recommend these forms of learning, as the information may not be correct.
If you’re looking to really take care of yourself when you exercise, consult a certified personal trainer, at least to start with. They will be able to offer you ideas about the exercises that are right for your particular body, watch and correct your form, and teach the proper technique so you can safely achieve your goals.
There are a variety of trainers right here in the Valley, with different specialties. Some like working with athletes, some with the older population, some like body building, functional fitness, yoga, the list goes on and on. Look around to find one that’s right for you.
Hiring a trainer is not a lifelong commitment, and you can try one session if you like, to see how it goes and if it’s a good fit for you. You may learn some new techniques and new exercises that can be a fun challenge for you. You may also find new motivation to exercise, and possibly even a new friend.