It’s hard not to cringe when you see someone lifting weights with bad form. The lack of proper technique can make workouts less effective and it can lead to all sorts of injuries. If you or someone you know needs a little refresher about technique and form, follow these tips.
Stand up tall and breathe.
Posture is important. Stand tall with your chin up, chest lifted and shoulders up, back and down. Don’t hunch over or hold tension in your neck. Contract your abs during strength training to protect your lower back. And make sure you breathe instead of holding your breath, exhaling on the exertion.
Use muscle not momentum.
Don’t use momentum to lift weights – engage your muscles. Avoid swinging the weights and instead lift and lower with purpose through the range of motion. You will activate more muscle fibers and get better results. As a rule of thumb, if you cannot lift a weight without swinging it, it is too heavy.
If using machines, take a quick look at the placard on the machine. Read the instructions and understand which muscle(s) you will be using. If you are using free weights and have questions about your knee positioning or arm movement, consult a personal trainer or take a group fitness strength class to get tips for proper technique.
Use all muscle groups.
One of the most efficient ways to build muscle is to do compound exercises—those that work more than one muscle group at a time. For example, a walking lunge requires multiple muscle groups such as your quads, glutes, hip flexors and hamstrings. Throw in a bicep curl as you do each lunge and now you are also working your biceps.
Make sure you feel it.
If you aren’t feeling anything after 12 to 15 reps, the weight or resistance is probably too light. Change up your weight or the machine so that after 12 reps you are feeling fatigue. Listen to your body and make sure to differentiate between muscle pain and muscle fatigue. Muscle pain is “ouch that really hurts”. Muscle fatigue is “wow I’m getting tired, can barely do another rep”. Never work through intense pain.
When strength training, make sure to alternate the muscles you are working out. If you are sore, allow a day or two of recovery before working those muscle groups again. Aim to get in some strength training two to three times every week.