Many trainees seek out the best tips for good form but with no end in sight. They read and watch countless blog posts and videos. They hope to find that quick answer for their lack of progress.
The path to success though asks you not to have an event but a process. This means that you must make the right choices time after time again. They fail to get enough rest, eat more food, and strive to use more weight, yet wonder why they struggle. They never admit that they are just looking for that next quick fix.
The focus on good form, though important at first, goes on far longer than it should for most lifters. The best exercises will feel easy to learn. Though you may need a cue list to do well and stay safe even after some practice, you should only have several simple cues at the most.
Take these steps:
- Choose the right exercises.
- Use good posture.
- Use medium grips, stances, and positions.
- Use neither too much nor too little range of motion.
- Stay in control.
- You should be stable.
- Move neither too fast nor too slow.
This list shows all that matters. Most do not think this is enough though. They keep taking in more and more and more.
Much of what they come to learn is meant for a sport. For instance, they look at powerlifting tips that came along with the growth of support gear. Since only lifting the most weight you can matters, they use extreme methods such as very wide grips. These do not work the muscles well and can harm the joints.
Learning good form then makes you feel as if you need a coach. You seek them out instead of growing to trust yourself. You take in advice from these gurus that tend to make it all feel complex. They may have little sense of how the body works while adding needless things for you to know that they just read online too.
The more you learn on form, the more likely you are to turn away from what makes sense and feels right. The more steps you have to keep in your mind, the less effort you can use. This will harm your health and results.
If you push, pull, and squat, you will move as you should when lifting weights. These ones work best and most safely. However, even these movements can be ruined if you focus too much on good form.
The Bench Press
Trainees are told to pinch their shoulder blades back as far back as they can. They then have to hold them there during a set. This tugs each way at where the head of the arm meets the socket of the shoulder. This joint should move along with the shoulder blades, not in the other direction nor should it stay in place. When you do a push-up, does it feel right to pinch the scapulae back? The tip to do this on the bench press is common yet it can harm you.
To limit the range of motion, trainees overarch their lower back. Though this may make it feel easier to reach the chest when you lower the barbell, what point does this serve? If you need less range of motion, you could wrap a pad around the barbell to have an endpoint. A spine under stress that is away from neutral can hurt you. This also declines your body when you press to harm your shoulders as well.
You may be told to tuck your elbows. This causes too much external rotation at the shoulder. This is just as risky as flaring them and will bother your wrists and other joints. Your elbows should neither tuck nor flare. They should stay under the wrists and at about a 45° angle relative to the torso.
Sticking your rear out by sitting back on the squat, while lifting the chest too much, just extends the lower back too far.
Many strive for far too great a range of motion since they feel they must do deep squats. This stretches the muscles, which works them less well. It rounds the lower back at the bottom. It places great shearing forces on the knees. With only about a 60° bend at the hips and knees, the muscles can reach the most tension. High tension sends the signal for them to build more size and strength. You only need a bit more range of motion beyond this is to gain the aid of a pre-stretch.
Pushing through your heels will limit the use of your calves and could make you lose your balance.
Squatting with too wide of a stance will hurt your hips. It slows the descent too much. In almost all cases, tight hips is not the issue but the form used.
You should not try to spread the floor unless your knees cave. Having them outside of your ankles is no better than inside. Keep the knees lined up with the ankles.
Trying to pull with just your elbows to work your upper back on the row is a mistake. This tip can come from bodybuilders that preach isolation. Thinking of the arms as hooks just uses less muscle. When more muscles work at once, all of the muscles tend to work harder.
Trainees feel they have to squeeze the bar very tightly. This wastes energy and can slow the movement too much. Grip firmly but not too hard. Never let a tight grip wear you out or distract you.
Using an overhand grip may match what most use for the bench press, but this does not work well for a pull. You should use between a pure underhand and pure neutral grip. This will work the biceps best.
Good Form is Overstressed for Lifting
Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it.
– Henry David Thoreau
Most of what you see on good form will drive you to extremes that can harm you.
The best exercises, done right, have you move in straight lines. You move using many joints at once. You feel it in many muscles without a single one taking over. You feel more compression than shear. Your muscles stay near their middle lengths where they work strongest. The joints move fairly close within the middle part of their fullest range of motion.
This leaves you with pushes, pulls, and squats. Use the barbell bench press, the barbell back squat, and the dumbbell single-armed row. These will meet the standards.
At their best, the tips out there can correct some big problems. For instance, many trainees need to keep their chest up to stop them from rounding their spine. Once they avoid doing this though, they may then extend their spines too far.
Learn good form based on how your body works and how it can deal with forces best. Mostly, just use some sense and notice how things make you feel. Avoid focusing too much on good form for lifting.