One of the most common mistakes people make in the gym is to use improper form. This will hinder your results and puts you at risk for major injuries, the most common of which are back problems. Back injuries are particularly troublesome as they often take months to heal and can even create issues for the rest of your life if they’re not taken care of correctly. Proper form is something you always have to be aware of; slipping back into old habits is easy to do if you don’t monitor yourself.
Why it’s important
1. Prevents injuries
One of the most important reasons for maintaining proper form is to prevent injuries. If you are lifting a lot of weight, your body is likely to become slightly misaligned, which can place your muscles, joints and tendons in awkward positions that could potentially cause strains or tears. It is best to ease up on the weight if it means you are better able to maintain proper form.
2. Ensures correct muscle targeting
Since many weightlifting exercises are targeted toward specific muscle groups, a lack of good form can cause you to work out a completely different muscle or to strain the muscle you were targeting. Proper form, on the other hand, ensures optimal results in the correct muscle group.
3. Helps maintain proper breathing
Proper breathing is essential in resistance training exercises because it helps you generate more force and reduces the chance of heart problems or severe increases in blood pressure. When you use correct form, you will find it easier to move the air in and out of your lungs, which will also help you focus your attention on the task at hand.
4. Enables you to lift more weight
In order for you to lift the maximum possible weight, your muscles need to be in the ideal position to generate force. When you begin to move out of alignment, you place your muscles at unnatural angles, decreasing their functional capability. By maintain proper form, you will be able to lift a larger amount of weight, which will translate into more visible results in a shorter period of time.
5. Reduces unnecessary stabilizing actions
When you use bad form, a number of muscles — predominately those in your core — must work overtime to stabilize your body and try to prevent an injury from occurring. All these actions eat up available energy and significantly reduce the effectiveness of your exercises. That means more work with less results — not and ideal situation.
Common form mistakes and solutions
1. Arching your back during a military press
How to fix this: Think of squeezing your glute muscles while you are lifting the weight over your head. This should help bring your back into alignment and prevent what is commonly called a “sway back” position.
2. Not aligning your feet over your knees during squats
How to fix this: This is a problem that can result in serious knee issues. A good way to prevent this is to always perform your squats in front of a mirror to ensure that you are placing your knees directly over your toes. You must only go down as far as is comfortable for you; if you try to go lower than your joints will allow you, your knees will move out of alignment.
3. Lifting your back off the bench during a bench press
How to fix this: Whenever you lift a large amount of weight, it is a natural action to arch your back, as it feels like it helps you generate more force. While you may feel like you’re stronger, the increased risk of injury is significant. To prevent this from occurring, think of pressing the small of your back against the bench. If you can fit more than the width of your flat hand under your back, you need to lighten the weight. In addition, it is always a good idea to use a spotter for safety precautions during this exercise.
4. Arching your back during bent-over rows
How to fix this: Look up while performing the exercise; this will help keep your spine in alignment. Also, if you perform it in front of a mirror, you can ensure that a “hump” doesn’t form in your back. Instead, it should resemble a tabletop.
5. Using momentum during bicep curls
How to fix this: This is a very common mistake. Many people try to use the momentum generated by swaying their bodies to help hoist the weights up toward their shoulders. This creates a lot of stress on the shoulder girdle, and if the weight is heavy enough, it can even knock you off balance. You will benefit more if you lift a lighter weight and isolate the bicep muscle. To reduce your chances of using momentum, perform the exercise while sitting on a bench or standing with your back against a wall.
If you have been experiencing any unusual pain lately, you might want to take a good look at your form during your weightlifting exercises; there is a good chance that you are falling out of proper alignment.