Poor form? OR the body being awesome!

I am writing this article as a bit of an add-on to the articles claiming that exercise repetitions don’t exist. As I spend a f

air amount of time in different gyms, I can’t help but watch people train and watch personal trainers and fitness professionals train their clients, and ‘poor form’ is rife in the industry….or so the so-called ‘experts’ would have you believe. Now I’m not really bothered about exactly who wrote the textbook on exercise but what I am concerned about is this – was it written with the client’s best interest at heart?!

All exercises with so-called ‘form’ and ‘technique’, such as the press-up or the lunge or the squat seem to have been designed to put as little amount of strain on the body and joints as possible. For example, how often have you heard the cue ‘neutral spine’ for the pushup, or ‘knees must go straight forward’ for a lunge or squat? These “rules” are there (in my opinion) to protect the personal trainer who prescribed the exercise from injuring their client during the session and getting sued! And this may seem great – after all, no-one wants injuries…but the thing is, these kind of ‘form pointers’ are only applied in the gym….What happens when something goes wrong in the real world where the body needs the capability to deal with danger (e.g. a golden laborador barreling into you while you’re out for your Sunday morning jog) and awkward positions (think standing on one leg, trying to reach an item on the top shelf in a supermarket while holding a heavy basket in the other)? For example, if, in the gym, the knee has never been allowed to ‘collapse-in’ as this is supposedly “bad” for it, how can it deal with the situation where my client steps on an uneven surface that forces the knee to abduct (i.e. ‘collapse in’)? What generally happens is that the body ‘locks up’ to protect itself, limits range of motion at the joint, and the forces of nature (e.g. gavity and momentum) will cause something to pull or tear!

Now, before all you advocates of perfect technique get all worked up, let me explain a little more about where I’m coming from and what I mean by this.

Movement is movement and nothing more. We shouldn’t immediately condemn someone for ‘poor technique’ and demand they change because it looks funny. I believe this is the greatest opportunity to study movement and ask why? These “dysfunctional” patterns are telling a story of the client’s history and how they like to train. We can learn a lot about what the body likes and dislikes and use this knowledge to subconsciously tease the body into a better way of doing something. After all, it’s much better if an athlete can do the movement better without having to always think about good form! (I promise a subconscious movement article is next :-) ) If we ask the body to perform a task it will show us the best way for it to , in its current state, to complete the task. It will show us what it’s good at and what it’s not so good at, and, if we pay attention, we can learn a lot from this. Like I mentioned in my articles on “When is a Rep not a Rep”, paying attention to your body is probably the most critical component to the success of your training.

Let’s get a little more specific to demonstrate exactly what I mean. For now I’m going to stick to the example of a press up, and the common misconception that ‘sagging hips’ can lead to a back injury….

 

Example: Are ‘Sagging Hips’ in a Press Up really ‘poor form’?

If we take a closer look at what joint movements ‘sagging hips’ consists of, we can see that it is simply hip and thoracic extension (i.e. think a standing backward bend in yoga), and this particular movement loads the hip flexors and the abdominals to spring the body back up to help complete the task, i.e. to help complete the press up! Imagine that, a body that uses its major muscle groups to complete a task, that can’t be right! The body imust be “cheating” to try and engage its bigger muscle groups to help out a chest that isn’t strong enough to deal with the load imposed. Now, some people argue that in this example the core isn’t strong enough, but really it’s the core that is doing most of the work!

A standing backward bend involves hip and thoracic extension.

However!!! if my clients’ hip or thoracic extension is poor (or more than likely the sequencing is poor, due to lack of training) then this may cause the pelvis to rotate forwards instead of backward and force the lumbar region to hyperextend instead (i.e. creating a lordosis), this less-mobile joint (we’ll say) doesn’t cope well with large ranges and big loads so this can sometimes refer a little back pain as a warning sign to change something. However, rather than teach fitness professionals what to look for and how to solve the problem we just ignore it and sweep it under the rug and make it a rule that dropping the hips will hurt the back!

And maybe the client would be fine without this ability to load their abs and hip flexors properly, but what happens if this client trips when walking and lands in a press up position and gravity, mass and momentum pull those hips to the floor? The hips will go down, you can’t fight physics :-(, and that inability to deal with that load, in that direction will cause the body to lock up and potentially pull something! Alternatively, if that person had been training to deal with those kinds of loads and movements then the back issue will be less of a problem, as the body knows it has, safely, been in that position before and can handle the situation just fine.

 

So to round this up before I begin to rant or rhyme off examples and case studies I want my message to be clear:

I am not promoting going into the gym and being reckless with technique and form. I want readers of this to be clear that proper form is essential but ‘bad form’ shouldn’t be thrown out as just bad form. The answer is in the question – examine what is going wrong and you will find out how to achieve effortless form. Essentially what I want is to promote good form, but good form that is acheioeved without having to consciously concentrate so hard on keeping everything right. We shouldn’t need to worry about form – it should happen naturally. Start small with small forces and speeds just pay attention to the little things and ask why:

  • Why am I doing it this way?
  • Why does it look funny at low levels?
  • What does it feel like and should it feel this way?

Regress to the most basic and progress slowly and at a sustainable rate. Think outside the box with regard to movement: try it and if it feels good, go for it; If it feels bad then don’t, but ask the question of why it feels bad? Is it me or that movement with that force??

When I move on to talking about subconscious movement this should all start to come together into how to progress your training in the best possible manner. In the meantime you can hit me with any questions so I can explain why I have just tossed the big book of exercise techniques out the window :-)Rich Text AreaToolbarBold (Ctrl / Alt + Shift + B)Italic (Ctrl / Alt + Shift + I)Strikethrough (Alt + Shift + D)Unordered list (Alt + Shift + U)Ordered list (Alt + Shift + O)Blockquote (Alt + Shift + Q)Align Left (Alt + Shift + L)Align Center (Alt + Shift + C)Align Right (Alt + Shift + R)Insert/edit link (Alt + Shift + A)Unlink (Alt + Shift + S)Insert More Tag (Alt + Shift + T)Toggle spellchecker (Alt + Shift + N)▼
Toggle fullscreen mode (Alt + Shift + G)Show/Hide Kitchen Sink (Alt + Shift + Z)
FormatFormat▼
UnderlineAlign Full (Alt + Shift + J)Select text color▼
Paste as Plain TextPaste from WordRemove formattingInsert custom characterOutdentIndentUndo (Ctrl + Z)Redo (Ctrl + Y)Help (Alt + Shift + H)

I am writing this article as a bit of an add-on to the articles claiming that exercise repetitions don’t exist. As I spend a fair amount of time in different gyms, I can’t help but watch people train and watch personal trainers and fitness professionals train their clients, and ‘poor form’ is rife in the industry….or so the so-called ‘experts’ would have you believe. Now I’m not really bothered about exactly who wrote the textbook on exercise but what I am concerned about is this – was it written with the client’s best interest at heart?!
All exercises with so-called ‘form’ and ‘technique’, such as the press-up or the lunge or the squat seem to have been designed to put as little amount of strain on the body and joints as possible. For example, how often have you heard the cue ‘neutral spine’ for the pushup, or ‘knees must go straight forward’ for a lunge or squat? These “rules” are there (in my opinion) to protect the personal trainer who prescribed the exercise from injuring their client during the session and getting sued! And this may seem great – after all, no-one wants injuries…but the thing is, these kind of ‘form pointers’ are only applied in the gym….What happens when something goes wrong in the real world where the body needs the capability to deal with danger (e.g. a golden laborador barreling into you while you’re out for your Sunday morning jog) and awkward positions (think standing on one leg, trying to reach an item on the top shelf in a supermarket while holding a heavy basket in the other)? For example, if, in the gym, the knee has never been allowed to ‘collapse-in’ as this is supposedly “bad” for it, how can it deal with the situation where my client steps on an uneven surface that forces the knee to abduct (i.e. ‘collapse in’)? What generally happens is that the body ‘locks up’ to protect itself, limits range of motion at the joint, and the forces of nature (e.g. gavity and momentum) will cause something to pull or tear!
Now, before all you advocates of perfect technique get all worked up, let me explain a little more about where I’m coming from and what I mean by this.…
Movement is movement and nothing more. We shouldn’t immediately condemn someone for ‘poor technique’ and demand they change because it looks funny. I believe this is the greatest opportunity to study movement and ask why? These “dysfunctional” patterns are telling a story of the client’s history and how they like to train. We can learn a lot about what the body likes and dislikes and use this knowledge to subconsciously tease the body into a better way of doing something. After all, it’s much better if an athlete can do the movement better without having to always think about good form! (I promise a subconscious movement article is next ) If we ask the body to perform a task it will show us the best way for it to , in its current state, to complete the task. It will show us what it’s good at and what it’s not so good at, and, if we pay attention, we can learn a lot from this. Like I mentioned in my articles on “When is a Rep not a Rep”, paying attention to your body is probably the most critical component to the success of your training.
Let’s get a little more specific to demonstrate exactly what I mean. For now I’m going to stick to the example of a press up, and the common misconception that ‘sagging hips’ can lead to a back injury….

Example: Are ‘Sagging Hips’ in a Press Up really ‘poor form’?
If we take a closer look at what joint movements ‘sagging hips’ consists of, we can see that it is simply hip and thoracic extension (i.e. think a standing backward bend in yoga), and this particular movement loads the hip flexors and the abdominals to spring the body back up to help complete the task, i.e. to help complete the press up! Imagine that, a body that uses its major muscle groups to complete a task, that can’t be right! The body imust be “cheating” to try and engage its bigger muscle groups to help out a chest that isn’t strong enough to deal with the load imposed. Now, some people argue that in this example the core isn’t strong enough, but really it’s the core that is doing most of the work!

A standing backward bend involves hip and thoracic extension.
However!!! if my clients’ hip or thoracic extension is poor (or more than likely the sequencing is poor, due to lack of training) then this may cause the pelvis to rotate forwards instead of backward and force the lumbar region to hyperextend instead (i.e. creating a lordosis), this less-mobile joint (we’ll say) doesn’t cope well with large ranges and big loads so this can sometimes refer a little back pain as a warning sign to change something. However, rather than teach fitness professionals what to look for and how to solve the problem we just ignore it and sweep it under the rug and make it a rule that dropping the hips will hurt the back!

And maybe the client would be fine without this ability to load their abs and hip flexors properly, but what happens if this client trips when walking and lands in a press up position and gravity, mass and momentum pull those hips to the floor? The hips will go down, you can’t fight physics , and that inability to deal with that load, in that direction will cause the body to lock up and potentially pull something! Alternatively, if that person had been training to deal with those kinds of loads and movements then the back issue will be less of a problem, as the body knows it has, safely, been in that position before and can handle the situation just fine.

So to round this up before I begin to rant or rhyme off examples and case studies I want my message to be clear:
I am not promoting going into the gym and being reckless with technique and form. I want readers of this to be clear that proper form is essential but ‘bad form’ shouldn’t be thrown out as just bad form. The answer is in the question – examine what is going wrong and you will find out how to achieve effortless form. Essentially what I want is to promote good form, but good form that is acheioeved without having to consciously concentrate so hard on keeping everything right. We shouldn’t need to worry about form – it should happen naturally. Start small with small forces and speeds just pay attention to the little things and ask why:
Why am I doing it this way?
Why does it look funny at low levels?
What does it feel like and should it feel this way?
Regress to the most basic and progress slowly and at a sustainable rate. Think outside the box with regard to movement: try it and if it feels good, go for it; If it feels bad then don’t, but ask the question of why it feels bad? Is it me or that movement with that force??
When I move on to talking about subconscious movement this should all start to come together into how to progress your training in the best possible manner. In the meantime you can hit me with any questions so I can explain why I have just tossed the big book of exercise techniques out the window
Path:

redditpinterestmail

Leave a Reply