In defence of proper technique…

bad pictures The second type isn’t excusable. This is lifting badly just to get it done- rather than exerting the extra effort to do it properly or risking failure. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been as guilty of this as anyone else, but I recognise this tendency and actively try to cut it out. Keeping your abs and quads braced in push ups is really hard when you’re a few hundred in. When you are on the final press in a set of 5 and you’re not sure if you have it in you, dipping and driving is an easy escape. You may think this really doesn’t matter, but I think it does for several important reasons. Poor mechanics are make for a poor stimulus- An exercise is programmed to stress the body in a particular way. Cheating in the movement takes the stress away from the musculature which should be working, either by cutting range of motion (squatting high), letting muscles relax (sagging hips in a push up) or recruiting other muscle groups (leg drive in the strict press uses the strong muscles of your hips rather than using the musculature of the shoulders, arms and chest). If you aren’t doing a movement in the correct way and recruiting the correct musculature, the efficacy of that movement to elicit a response will be blunted. How could a deadlift give you the ability to maintain a braced and neutral spine if you don’t keep it braced and neutral while deadlifting? If you want to maximise the efficiency of your training, do your exercises correctly as much as you can. Inefficiency. For example, during a deadlift, force is generated by the contraction of the hamstrings and glutes which extend the hip. The spine must be braced and neutral (by taking a deep breath,and contracting the abs, obliques and musculature of the entire back and shoulder girdle) in order the transmit the force generated through the trunk, shoulders, arms and hands to move the bar. A sloppy soft trunk means less force can be transmitted from the glutes and hamstrings to the barbell. Strengthen up your trunk by concentrating on its activation, and watch your lifts improve. Increased Risk of Injury. The body is comprised of bones joined by ligaments and muscles joined to bones by tendons. The system works amazingly well when it is loaded as it evolved to be. To train with good form is to express efficient human movement. When this movement becomes less optimal, and knees buckle, elbows flare out and chests drop, the risk of injury increases. Ligaments and joints are put under weird and undue stress. You can get away with moving badly for a while, the human body is tough, but eventually, like the straw that broke the camels back, or the final piece put on in a tense game of buckaroo, something will break. apicd Quantifying progress becomes more difficult. If you add 2.5kg a week onto your squat, but end up barely bending your knees after 2 months, you probably aren’t really that much stronger. Decide what constitutes a rep and be sure every rep meets that criteria. As the old Henry Rollins adage goes, ‘200lb is always 200lb’- but really, 200lb is only always 200lb if it is also always moved through the same range of motion. Understand that putting more weight on the bar doesn’t necessarily equate to being stronger. More reps doesn’t automatically mean better. More reps with perfect form is progress. Failure is ok, but it should be half way through a rep which looked identical to the first rep of the set. Reinforcement of Psychological Weakness. Getting towards the end of a high rep set is hard. Pulling a one rep max deadlift is hard. But when faced with the adversity of a heavy loaded barbell, or the final 100m of a row, fight hard. To resort to poor form is to submit. What is happening is you are doubting yourself when confronted with the prospect of failure, and cheat rather than battle .Do not go out with a whimper as you kip your final pull up. See it off with a burning fury. Get your chin over that damn bar without so much as a hint of hip flexion and extension. Keep your chest high out of the bottom of that squat. If you make the lift, great. If you miss, dump the bar and get over it. Hitting a lift badly gives no satisfaction. I’ve hit bad lifts many times, and I’m annoyed afterwards. I’d rather do the lift properly or miss.Don’t crumble. Brace your abs, suck in a deep breath and make your last rep look like your first, and make or miss you can hold your head up high. There’s nothing more rewarding in the gym than hitting a PB with great form. Mistaking training for competition.The point of training is to stress your body in order to elicit a favourable adaption.Nothing more, nothing less. If you are hitting your final deadlift in a powerlifting competition and need 3 whites to get on the podium, and your back rounds a bit, I’m not going to give you a hard time. If week in, week out you are deadlifting looking like the Hunchback of Notre Dame you may need to take some weight off and put on something you can lift properly. Training is not competition. It is about providing an deliberately structured incrementally tougher stimulus, not testing yourself to see what you can do if there was a gun held to your head by someone with a relaxed attitude to form. So if you’re still with me, and you’re considering taking this philosophy of training on board, here are a few easy ways of ensuring you stay on the straight and narrow when your muscles are screaming at you and you’re considering Ask someone who knows what they are doing (i.e. one of the coaches) to watch your set for any variance in technique and psychological support. Often just knowing you’re being watched makes you dig deeper. Any of the coaches are always more than happy to help you out. Video your set. Coach’s Eye is my favourite app available on iPhone. It allows you to go scope frame by frame, zoom on videos, play two videos simultaneously to compare etc (Credit to Leighton Bellamore for showing me this) apicc Know exactly what a proper rep feels like. Be deliberate as to what you’re activating and rotating and bracing. Understand where each exercise fits in your program, and why it is there. Complete every rep in such a way that is conducive to eliciting the intended stimulus. Learning a new movement is hard, so pay attention to the gap between what is occurring and what should be.. Narrow the gap constantly. Even if you’ve been doing a lift years, you can still improve something. There’s always something to work on. Touch your chest every rep on bench press. If anyone else touches the bar, the set is over. (I’m not talking about bodybuilding-esque forced reps which are something quite different). Touch your chest to the bar when you do pull ups rather than stretching your neck like a human giraffe to get your chin over. Dead hang at the bottom. If you fail to do either on a rep, don’t count it. Squeeze your abs during push ups. If you’re doing hand release push ups, keep your abs braced the whole time so the only parts of you in contact with the floor are the top of your chest and your feet. Squat deep every time. Leave no doubt. Finally, and most importantly, when you reach that moment during a set or a row where you’re not sure if you can finish it, do not cringe away from that moment of adversity. Meet it aggressively. Surge forward and attack it. I’m talking about a smoldering intensity, a fixation on the task in hand to get it done, and an honest sense of satisfaction when you finish knowing that was a job well done. Cheated reps look good in the log book but leave a bitter taste in your mouth. Be honest with yourself, aware of what you are trying to achieve from each exercise and work hard. It’s as simple and as complicated as that. ]]>

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