Proper Form and Technique
Pay attention to using proper form and technique when exercising with weights. This also applies to strength training exercises that use your body weight. Some of the points that I want to discuss in this article may seem very basic or trivial, but a momentary reflection of the basic points that I will be outlining will help you to improve your overall workouts in a safe manner and maximize the effectiveness of your weight training.
There are two reasons why you should always pay attention to form and technique when exercising. The most important and most obvious is that if you're not performing the exercise correctly, you risk the chance of hurting yourself either immediately or in the future. The other reason is that you are not realizing the full benefits from your workouts. You are merely going through the motion of your workout.
For people just beginning to train with weights or if you're trying out a new exercise, it is important that you understand how the exercise is to be performed, the mechanics of an exercise, as well as what muscles or muscle groups you are working. For more experienced people, sometimes it's good to re-evaluate how you are performing a particular exercise and how you can improve upon what you are doing. Sometimes over time a person tends to slip into bad habits with respect to how one does any particular exercise.
So what constitutes proper form and technique?
When beginning a new exercise for the first time, start with a very light weight. Go through the movements of the exercise slowly. This way you'll gain an understanding about how it is to be performed as well as committing the movement to memory. You'll also learn whether or not you are comfortable with the exercise or whether it is even worthwhile doing. Once you understand the basic movement, you may continue with your desired weight.
Concentration and focus. Concentrate on what you are doing. Your mind should be focused on the task at hand. This way you will avoid bad habits or accidents.
When performing an exercise stress equally the positive and the negative of the movements. For example, if you are doing any chest press the positive is the upward movement and the negative the downward movement. When exercising, many people forget about the negative. They exert all their effort on the pushing the dumbbells up as in a dumbbell chest press, but they lower or let the dumbbells drop too quickly. Thus negating or minimizing the benefits derived from the negative portion of the exercise.
Don't forget to breathe. By holding your breath during even a single repetition of an exercise, you are depriving your body of valuable oxygen and experiencing muscle fatigue much sooner. Your body and muscles need oxygen. More oxygen in your muscles and body means more endurance and a better workout.
Muscle focus and isolation. Of course every exercise uses secondary muscles to complete a given movement but try to isolate the muscles when you are working out. If you do not, you will tire out the secondary muscles and not fully work out the primary muscles. For example on pulldowns or any rows for the back, if you are using the arms too much you can tire them out before the lats do because they are much smaller muscles than the muscles in your back. By concentrating on using the lats to pull the weight down you are effectively reducing the workload that your arms are doing and placing the bulk of the workout on the lats.
Each weight training exercise that you may be doing may also have specific areas where bad form can easily result. There are countless exercises that I can point to as examples, but let me look at the standing barbell biceps curl exercise. In this example, it's easy to sway your entire body to perform the biceps curl or have your arms all over the place (in different planes of motion). This can be due to the fact you are either curling too much or just unaware of proper form and technique. To prevent the sway use your legs and core muscles as support, stand straight, your elbows and arms at your sides and focus on using your biceps to perform the exercise and not your entire body.
As a matter of fact, in every day life you should also be paying attention to how you lift things, sit, etc... This way you will avoid any nagging pains or aches or accidental injuries. Body pain exists to tell you something is being done wrong to your body. You will also improve your posture and mechanics.
Over time you may want to modify a certain exercise. Add some variations to more effectively or differently work your muscles.
These are just some of the most important points to pay attention to when weight training. By paying attention to these points you will avoid any possible injuries and you will maximize the potential from every single workout. This is the whole purpose of weight training - to strengthen your muscles, prevent injuries and know that a little attention to your health now will go a long way to your future well-being.