By Darren Floro-Bryant
As a personal trainer, people always ask me for fitness advice. They want to know what exercises they can do to work certain body parts. They want to know routines, tips, and tricks. The best piece of advice I can give them is to focus on proper form no matter what exercise they do.
Proper form is key to getting maximum results with the greatest reduction in chances of getting injured. Yes, even with proper form, there is still some risk of getting injured, but the chances are less likely.
By using proper form for an exercise, you increase the chances of working the muscle you intend to work more intensely. Not only that, but by focusing on your form, you are building a stronger support system throughout your body by actively engaging secondary and tertiary muscles for stability.
More often than not, the base of your form is initiated by your core. Having a strong core provides the strength, stability, balance and focus your body needs, almost subconsciously, allowing you to engage other areas of your body to assist in the exercise or activity you are performing. Without a strong core, it really puts your body at an increased risk for injury. It is a great reason to look at ways to strengthen your core and seek the advice and guidance of a personal trainer. They should be able to help ensure you are performing these exercises correctly and show you how to apply them to other aspects of your workouts and life.
Assuming you’ve done all of that, you need to find a way to help you think about how to apply core engagement to your exercises to maintain your form. Think of your torso like a rectangle. Your shoulders are two points, and your hips are the other two points. You want to make sure your shoulders are shrugged down and away from your ears, and your chest is up. You then want to make sure your hips are square; your abdomen is tight to support the natural curve of your spine. Once these 4 points are secure, make sure your knees are slightly bent (not locked out), and that your chin is level to the floor (if standing) or not squished to your chest if lying down. This is the standard stance, but slight modifications will probably need to be made depending on the exercise you are performing and if you are seated, laying down, bent over or even hanging. Regardless, the “rectangle” can be implemented or applied to every exercise to help initiate or guide proper form.
Now with all of this being said, there are going to be times when your form will suffer or break. Increasing the weight, you are lifting, as an example. There is going to be new resistance put on your body that you are not prepared for, but this is the perfect opportunity to focus on your form. Take the time to perfect it at this new weight before progressing to the next level, so on and so forth. The more you can focus on keeping proper form the less likely it will be that you get injured.
Next time you are working out or exercising, think of the muscle you are intending to work or the movement you are performing. If you are feeling it in other places that don’t “feel” right, take a second to stop and re-examine your form. Make sure your ‘rectangle’ that surrounds your core is secure and take a moment to think of all of the other supporting muscles and joints. Pay attention to what they are doing to ensure you are working your body as intended.
Darren Floro-Bryant is originally from Ontario, Canada, but now lives and works in Atlanta, GA. Darren has worked as a certified Group Fitness Instructor, Fitness Coach, and Personal Trainer for more than 25 Years. Currently, he owns DFB Fitness and Foundation Fitness – learn more at DFBFitness.com and FoundationFitness.co.