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Check Out That Form!

March 8, 2010

So there I was on Saturday at the gym.  The kids stayed home and I was focused on my planned out exercises.  Too bad I wasn’t focused on my form…

One thing that I learned a long time ago is that the exercise weight really means nothing if you can’t control the weight.  Your attempt will only be half way done because your form will stop you from completing it as you should and you’ll usually end up getting injured.  I got lucky on my squatting.  I was going for a personal best this time around.  I’m really focusing on the deepness of my squat so that I can fully work the thigh/quadricep.  Last time around I felt myself lean forward a bit as I came down.  It’s fairly common to round the back when you squat, so I always pick a point on the wall to look up at.  By looking up, you keep your neck up which helps to keep your back from rounding.  This is highly suggested!  Despite viewing that spot, I felt my back round a bit.  I was able to finish the set, re-focus where my feet should be, pointing slightly out – and then I was able to knock out the rest.

With the bench press, I wasn’t so lucky.  Proper form, as this video shows, has you planting your feet, spacing out your hands on the bar, etc.  I recommend the following:  Practice first with no weight.  As you place your hands on the bar, arch your back so you can squeeze your shoulder blades together.  This makes you “tight” and lifts your chest up so you can recruit those muscles to assist in the lift rather than make it an arm focused move.  With your shoulders squeezed, lift the weight and as you descend the weight, BREATHE IN.  The air in your lungs will tighten you up more and assist in powering the bar up off the chest.  When you lift the bar up, do so as explosively as you can and push the air out forcefully.
I was handling this part just fine but I believe my weak/left side faltered, my right side kicked in to overbalance and I tweaked my right shoulder.  Either way, that bad boy still hurts after 2 days, so I’m resting it one more day before any other shoulder-related exercises are involved.

Lesson for the day:  whether you are performing bodyweight exercises or resistance weight exercises – know how the exercise should be performed first before attempting.  Slight variations can cause your body to incorporate the wrong muscles which can lead to injury.  And injury means you’re stuck at home or on the couch or unable to perform. And that can be frustrating if used to an active lifestyle – trust me!

FINALLY, the most invaluable tip I’ve used again and again – and suggested to my client when I was a personal trainer.  Ready?  When you are performing reps, count down rather than up.  For example: 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1.  The mind embraces those smaller numbers and as you get down there is a more definitive end to that set.  Try it and tell me what you think.

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