Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Maintain Good Form When Lifting Weight

Walking around in the gym, it's easy to spot people who are huffing, puffing and yelling while jerking off pathetic weight. Many people lift weights that are too much for their training program or workout routine. It's true that one needs to lift heavy to build muscles, but not so heavy as to sacrifice proper form and potentially lead to injuries.

Back injuries are particularly bad with a high relapse rate as they may take a long time to treat and heal. They can even create long-term problems that affect your quality of life if they’re not taken care of correctly. While some exercises for your back are available, it's the proper form to lift weight that you always should be aware of.

So why is it important to maintain good form while lifting weight?

1. Preventing injuries. One of the most important reasons for maintaining proper form is to prevent injuries. If you life a lot of weight, your muscles, joints and tendons are likely to be placed a lot of stress in awkward positions. It could potentially cause strains or tears. It is better to lighten up the weight in order to maintain proper form.

2. Targeting correct muscle. Since many weightlifting exercises are targeted toward specific muscle groups, a lack of good form can cause you to work out a completely different muscle or to strain the muscle you are targeting. Proper form helps target the correct muscle group.

3. Helping maintain proper breathing. Proper breathing is essential in resistance training exercises because it helps you generate more force and reduces the chance of heart problems or severe increases in blood pressure. When you use correct form, you will find it easier to move the air in and out of your lungs, which will also help you focus your attention on the task at hand.

4. Helping lift more weight. In order for you to lift the maximum possible weight, your muscles need to be in the ideal position to generate force. When you begin to move out of alignment, you place your muscles at unnatural angles, decreasing their functional capability. By maintaining proper form, you will be able to lift a larger amount of weight, which will translate into more visible results in a shorter period of time.

5. Reducing unnecessary stabilizing actions. When you use bad form, a number of muscles have to work overtime to stabilize your body and try to prevent an injury from occurring. All these actions eat up available energy and significantly reduce the effectiveness of your exercises. That means more work with less results.

Common Mistakes and Simple Solutions

1. Arching your back during a military press. Think of squeezing your glute muscles while you are lifting the weight over your head. This should help bring your back into alignment and prevent what is commonly called a “sway back” position.

2. Not aligning your feet over your knees during squats. This is a problem that can result in serious knee issues. A good way to prevent this is to always perform your squats in front of a mirror to ensure that you are placing your knees directly over your toes. You must only go down as far as is comfortable for you. If you try to go lower than your joints will allow you, your knees will move out of alignment.

3. Lifting your back off the bench during a bench press. Whenever you lift a large amount of weight, it is a natural action to arch your back, as it feels like it helps you generate more force. While you may feel like you’re stronger, the increased risk of injury is significant. To prevent this from occurring, think of pressing the small of your back against the bench. If you can fit more than the width of your flat hand under your back, you need to lighten the weight. In addition, it is always a good idea to use a spotter for safety precautions during this exercise.

4. Arching your back during bent-over row. Look up a bit while performing the exercise. This will help keep your neck and spine in natural alignment. Also, if you perform it in front of a mirror, you can ensure that a “hump” doesn’t form in your back. Do not "round" your back.

5. Using momentum during biceps curl. This is a very common mistake. Many people try to use the momentum generated by swaying their bodies to help hoist the weights up toward their shoulders. This creates a lot of stress on the shoulder girdle. If the weight is heavy enough, it can even knock you off balance. You will benefit more if you lift a lighter weight and isolate the bicep muscle. To reduce your chances of using momentum, perform the exercise while sitting on a bench or standing with your back against a wall.

If you have been experiencing any unusual pain lately, you might want to take a good look at your form during your weightlifting exercises. There is a good chance that you are falling out of proper alignment.

Resource: Essentials of Exercise Physiology. (2000). McArdle, W., Katch, F. & Katch, V.

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