Why Exercise Form and Technique Are Crucial & How Trainers Can Help

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Why Exercise Form and Technique Are Crucial & How Trainers Can Help
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Proper form and exercise technique are more vital than you might realize. While most people understand that bad form can lead to injuries, it’s less known that you can miss out on muscle gains (and other benefits) without the best technique. 

Learning how to optimize technique and form is a process that weight lifters undergo for years. While the basics are essential to learn from the start, there are tweaks you can adopt to “feel” the muscles and optimize your strength training technique to best suit your unique anatomy and needs. A knowledgeable certified personal trainer can help you learn these more nuanced skills. 

You may wonder how trainers do this, especially online trainers. I combine my own experience as a certified personal trainer with those of Mallory Branson, NASM-certified personal trainer with Kickoff, to show you how. You’ll learn how to improve your exercise form through practice, along with how a personal trainer will encourage the best range of motion and adjustments for your anatomy so you can make the most of your training.

Why Proper Form and Technique Are Important

Why Exercise Form and Technique Are Crucial & How Trainers Can Help
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Proper form and technique for each and every exercise you do are vital because you could become injured if your form isn’t correct. Beyond acute (immediate) injuries, you could also end up with long-lasting issues over time if you repeatedly perform movements incorrectly. 

For example, one of the more common mistakes I see with squats is something called “butt wink.” This aptly named form fault is when your spine flexes at the bottom of a squat, and your bum makes a “winking” motion, dipping and curling your tailbone under. 

While this may not hurt right away, when spinal flexion is under load (you have a barbell across your shoulders or are holding dumbbells), the butt wink can cause pain and dysfunction in your lower back over time. Even experienced lifters have trouble with butt wink, and it’s difficult to spot unless you film yourself or have someone watch your technique for this error.

If you’re performing exercises with form mistakes like this, you won’t be able to progress very well. Important details such as using full range of motion, improving mind-muscle connection, managing fatigue, and keeping your sets adequately challenging are all crucial. Without them, you’ll miss out on strength and muscle gains

Benefits of Proper Form and Technique

Now that we have the scary stuff out of the way, let’s dig into the benefits of nailing down proper form. Coach Mallory agrees that proper form and technique are essential in order to see results and make the most out of your workouts

“Many times, just going through the motions isn't enough. Coaching clients through full range of motion and cueing them to squeeze the right areas makes a huge difference in results,” she explains. 

Correct form and improved technique during exercises can help you with the following:

  • Range of motion and mobility: Executing an exercise with an optimal, full range of motion will help you hit more muscle fibers, providing more growth and strength gains.

  • Mind-muscle connection: Proper form and technique can improve your mind-muscle connection, helping you properly feel and stimulate the target muscle.

  • Fatigue management: Poor form can lead to central nervous system and muscular fatigue without truly working the intended muscle group to fatigue. This means poor results and poor recovery.

  • Getting closer to failure safely: Taking your sets close to failure is necessary for muscle growth and strength gains. Doing this safely requires proper form without dangerous mistakes.

  • Breaking through plateaus: If you have form mistakes, you’ll likely hit strength plateaus that you could break through once you fix these errors.

How to Ensure Proper Form as a Beginner

If you’re new to working out and need clarification on whether your form is correct, I suggest having a personal trainer watch you perform your routine and provide feedback. This could be an online trainer you hire for a few sessions to check your form or an ongoing coaching relationship.

If you cannot use a personal trainer, there are some forums and online groups where you can upload videos and experts or experienced gym-goers can help you pick out errors. But, it’s not always easy to vouch for their expertise or knowledge.

How to Improve Form In the Gym

Why Exercise Form and Technique Are Crucial & How Trainers Can Help
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  1. Practice makes perfect: Improving your form in the gym can be done by practicing all of your movements using a full range of motion and body weight or light weights. For instance, I have clients practice barbell movements like squats, deadlifts, and shoulder presses using a long wooden dowel. We practice until perfect and then add weight once form becomes second nature.

  2. Warm-up effectively: We also warm up thoroughly using the dowel, then add light-weighted versions of the exercises before moving on to working sets using their ideal weights. Note that beginners should avoid going close to failure with most exercises, especially ones such as deadlifts, squats, and presses that require excellent form to prevent injuries.

  3. Focus on the task at hand: Nothing is worse for form or results than not focusing on your workout. Avoid distractions such as social media, conversations, podcasts, and music until you know how to perform an exercise as if it’s second nature. Concentrate on your form and feeling the muscles you’re working.

How Online Trainers Watch for and Correct Form Mistakes

I tapped Coach Mallory to help explain just how an online personal trainer can ensure their client has correct form. After all, without being there in person, it might seem challenging to get the complete picture of how someone is performing. 

She says she begins a new client's program with a squat test and sometimes other postural assessments to determine their imbalances and general mobility. “You can actually tell a lot about a person's ability to keep good form for general exercises just by assessing movement patterns. I do this either on live video or by asking for a video of them going through the movements per my instructions,” explains Coach Mallory.

Postural assessments are an ideal starting place to see how someone moves and functions to spot any muscular dysfunction or compensations that can cause poor form. Next, Coach Mallory asks her clients to send videos of themselves performing specific exercises that she thinks they may have trouble with. She also asks the client for how they feel while performing (or after performing) particular exercises. 

“If they aren't feeling the movement where it is targeted, it's likely their form is off. Online training requires a ton of feedback and verbal cues since I'm not standing next to them where I can physically show them,” she explains.

Another way Coach Mallory helps her clients understand and practice their form is by sending plenty of demonstration videos to her clients, who learn best with visual demonstrations. For others who need it, she uses live chat sessions where they can communicate back and forth about the movement. Some people prefer to use text instructions for their exercises or some combination of these methods. “It's very dependent on the client's experience with exercise in the past and whether or not they have worked with a trainer before,” she notes.

If you’re curious about working with an online personal trainer, know you can always ask for any accommodations or explanations you want and need without judgment. Some people do better with visual cues, while others learn best from practicing independently and asking for feedback afterward. 

Regardless of your needs, knowledgeable trainers like Mallory can help you learn and progress. No question is too basic! Trainers are in the service industry and generally love helping and encouraging you to be your best on your own terms.

Learn proper form and exercise techniques from a qualified trainer. Sign up for a free consultation with a certified personal trainer today.