In the beginning, progress in the gym comes quickly. Enthusiasm is high, commitment levels strong, and your body is receptive to the challenge. However, lifting isn’t always a linear process. There are days when you’ll be strong and others where you struggle to manage the same weights used for the previous workout. It’s easy to get impatient, but scientists call it ‘progressive resistance’ for a reason; physique development is the culmination of thousands of slightly more challenging repetitions conducted over long periods of time.
While most people will make gains with just about any old workout (regardless of the manner in which they perform the exercises) when first starting out, progress plateaus pretty quickly without learning correct form.
Form is akin to the base of a building. It’s the foundation that one builds upon. When you have a weak foundation, the rest of the structure is shaky and doomed to collapse. Likewise, if you fail to learn and use proper execution for different exercises, your size and strength will be limited as you attempt to increase the resistance. Even worse, bad training form may underemphasize the intended muscle group (e.g., bench press that burns your front delts and tris more than pecs) and can even lead to injury.
The Good Training FORMula
Before you Lift:
- Learn how to perform each exercise correctly. Check out reputable fitness magazines and websites for “how to” photos or videos illustrating the proper execution. Alternatively, consider hiring a qualified personal trainer for a few workouts to teach you.
- Prepare yourself for the lift that you are about to perform by visualizing the motion in your head, orientating your body appropriately, and running through the motion without any added resistance.
During the Lift:
- Start with light to moderate weight and perform the exercise with controlled movement.
- Focus on your breathing. Inhale on the concentric, or positive, part of the movement and exhale immediately after the negative portion of the lift.
- Make sure that you feel “the burn” in the intended muscle groups. Pain – especially acute pain – in your joints is a strong sign that you are doing an exercise incorrectly.
Take the time to learn good form. A little patience in the beginning will pay serious dividends down the road.