Tips for Self-Correcting Form

While straining on your last and most difficult reps, you will likely forget the many tips you learned for good form. This happens even more so when these oppose what your body would do naturally.

Self-correction will maintain good form that feels right, regardless of how tough a rep may feel, and with less to remember. If you follow the tips below, you will avoid making mistakes, and without having to dwell on them:

  1. Use a wide enough grip on the bench press.
  2. Lift the chest up a bit on the squat.
  3. Keep your neck in neutral on the row.

An ancient military tactic, mentioned in Sun Tzu’s Art of War, had generals burn down their own boats and bridges after they crossed into enemy lands. They cut off the choice to retreat completely.

Think of when driving a car. Most of us use their right foot for both the brake and gas pedals. If you push with both feet, the right for the gas and the left for the brake, you risk your safety when you need to halt quickly. If you panic, you may press on each pedal together. You would fail to slow down, which could cause a crash or harm your car in the least.

The best self-correcting tips in fitness help in many ways. A good posture, which has you stand tall, with the chest out and shoulder blades back, serves as the best of them all.

These tips allow hard work. With less to ponder, you can prepare to do your best. Applying enough effort to add weight to your exercises over time is the true key to real and safe progress.

View these tips for the bench press, the squat, and the row, the only lifts you need.

Three Tips for Self-Correcting Form

It is easier to prevent bad habits than to break them.

– Benjamin Franklin

  • Use a wide enough grip on the bench press.

Many experts state that you should adopt a narrow grip and tuck your elbows on the bench press. They say this is to protect your shoulders. Though it may work when using support gear, it will not suit you so well when lifting raw. Despite what they say, this will harm your joints.

You may have the willpower to tuck your elbows when you lower the weight on the bench press, but once you reach the bottom and drive back up, your elbows will flare outside of your wrists if you choose too narrow of a grip. This applies shear forces on your shoulders and elbows.

You may resist this urge when the reps feel easy, but as they come to challenge you, the elbows will want to flare.

Choose a wider grip. Have your elbows roughly line up with the wrists at the bottom. With a wide enough grip, you will not have to tuck your elbows. You will feel stronger and safer as long as you avoid too much range of motion.

Avoid any extremes for your grip and in how you move your elbows. Both too narrow or too wide, and too tucked or too flared, will bring problems. They allow too much external or internal rotation at the shoulder. This will harm it, and even more so when taking place under a load.

  • Keep the chest up a bit on the squat.

This will stop you from pushing your hips back too far. To squat well, your hips should go both out and down. Keeping the chest up lets this happen.

Directing the hips back too far leads to the lower back and hip muscles dominating the exercise. This places uneven forces on the body, which harms the joints. The hamstrings will stretch too far. The quadriceps and calves will fail to contribute fully, getting weaker in the end.

The moment arm, or the horizontal distance between the barbell and your lower back, will increase as you push your hips out. This generates more force, and of the worst kind, on the lower back. This makes the spine likely to round.

Keeping the chest up has other benefits. It prevents you from tipping forward and losing your balance. You stay under the bar so that you can use your hips, thighs, and legs best.

If you keep your chest up, you gain these advantages without much thought. Just avoid overdoing it.

  • Keep your neck in neutral on the row.

A neutral position for your neck occurs when you face forward with good posture. The neck stays in place without extending, flexing, or twisting.

With the version of the row I suggest, you will look with a slight angle at the floor, not at a wall. This tip works best when staring at a point that keeps your neck in neutral.

When you fail at this, and the weight grows heavy, you may twist too much. This encourages almost dragging the upper arm across your body as you lift the weight. This will limit the range of motion too greatly and use the shoulder poorly. You will train the upper back, the rear of the shoulders, and the front of the arms, the prime movers for this exercise, far less.

If you fail to set your neck in neutral, you may contort it when the reps worsen, making it more likely that you will jerk up the weight. This has you move too fast, lose stability, and risk your safety.

Use These Tips for Self-Correcting Your Form

Choose the right exercises. Restrict your range of motion. Use medium grips, stances, and positions. This advice will solve most problems.

Good form should not feel complicated if you use the tips just given. Add no more than a few self-correcting ones for each exercise. These will have you recalling fewer cues to retain good form.

Apply self-correction in your life beyond fitness. Make good decisions that make bad decisions impossible. Why not eliminate a poor choice as an option in the first place?

Choose a wide enough grip on the bench press. Keep the chest up a bit on the squat. Keep your neck in neutral on the row. These self-correcting tips will improve your form.

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