Exercise form: why it’s so important.

When it comes to exercise, every trainer is different. My past clients can attest to my style–I’m a stickler about form. I would rather you do 10 perfect squats rather than 100 craptastic ones in a minute. Quality trumps quantity any day of the week because when you maximize your form, you reduce your risk of injury and increase the impact of the exercise by correctly engaging all the muscle groups.

It makes my entire body cringe watching someone using terrible form because they’re going too fast or lifting too heavy of a weight. I’m far more impressed by great form. That shows dedication to learning how to do it right. The “learning” piece is often overlooked during weight training. Anyone can move a heavy object, but moving it in the safe and right way….that’s hot! Remember: you shouldn’t try to build the roof before you lay down the concrete foundation.

Here are 3 exercises everyone should be able to do before they perform any other resistance exercise: a push-up, squat, and pull-up. Perfecting form with these will be the starting point from which you’ll progress.

The Push-Up

  • Common Mistake: Not engaging your core (allowing your hips to drop).
  • Fix: Squeeze your abs and your butt cheeks as you do a push-up to prevent from your hips of dropping. Think of your body as a door and your feet are the hinges to the ground. Your body moves as one solid piece of wood without your shoulders leading or your hips dropping.
  • Beginner moves: Start with push-ups on your knees instead of your feet or practice planks to strengthen your core.
  • Advanced moves: Once you’ve mastered the traditional push-up, try changing the distance between your hands or progress to a chest press with dumbbells.

The Squat

  • Common Mistakes: Your knees are misaligned with your feet, the exercise is performed on toes, and your chest falls.
  • Fixes: Let your toes dictate the direction your knees point/move, don’t let your knees go forward past your toes, put weight on your heels, let your butt lead the movement (not your back), and keep your chest comfortably up.
  • Beginner move: Place a big exercise ball behind your back between you and the wall (position it mid-back). As your squat, remember the fixes above.
  • Advanced move: Add weight whether it’s a dumbbell, kettle bell, or a barbell.

The Pull-up

  • Common Mistakes: Hand/arm position is not aligned with the body (too forward or back), kicking upward, and not moving the full range of motion.
  • Fixes: Line your hands/arms with your body with a pull-up bar that provides a space in between the hands for your head to move through and practice with weight assistance machines.
  • Beginner move: Use a weight assisted pull-up machine.
  • Advanced: Add weight with a weight belt or try different grips like a neutral pull-up.

Happy lifting, friends!

Thomas Ngo, RD


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