We have all heard the phrase “quality over quantity,” and most of us have even directed this adage at someone else. But do we really believe it? And if we do, why is every gym and fitness center in the country filled with people sacrificing form for a few additional reps and pounds?
Before you pick up a weight, start a treadmill, or begin whatever mode of training you have planned for the day, think about your technique. “Where should my feet be?” “Should my hips be under my torso or behind it?” and “How am I going to breathe?” should be some of the questions you ask yourself before getting started.
Common problems associated with poor exercise technique include injuries such as sprains, strains, and fractures. Decreased activation of the desired muscle is also common when performing an exercise incorrectly. I see this most often when people are doing exercises too fast and momentum begins to reduce the work the targeted muscle has to do. All of these technique-associated problems have one thing in common: time.
“Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time,” said Jim Rohn. So stop wasting your time recovering from injuries you got only because you were doing exercises incorrectly or because you had to do extra repetitions since poor form caused the targeted muscle not to fatigue as quickly as it should have.
Here are some workout technique tips for making sure you take the time needed to do the exercises properly and safely.
Use Your Resources
There are countless fitness resources around us, some clearly better than others, that you can consult with to ensure that you are doing exercises properly. The first thing I would recommend you do is research the exercise technique on your own so that you have a general idea of what to expect. Then you should consult with the fitness professional in your active aging community, who can then provide you with cues and possibly hands-on instruction.
Proper Breathing During Exercise
Proper breathing can make the most difficult exercise seem easy. Or it can have the exact opposite effect, making a routine move seem like the end of the world. The most common method of breathing while performing resistance training is to inhale during the eccentric contraction (lowering weight) and to exhale during the concentric contractions (lifting weight). This method of breathing is not the only option an exerciser has, so do your research and find out what is the best method for you, but keep in mind that some variations carry risks. The Valsalva maneuver, for example, can be used when resistance training, but this method of breathing, exhaling against a closed airway, can cause dizziness as the blood levels returning to the heart drop.
Correct Body Position
Once you learn the appropriate body position for your desired exercise, pay attention to it as you execute the reps. The best way to do this is by watching yourself in a mirror. If you notice that your form is beginning to deteriorate and you are not able to correct it, stop the exercise and rest or reduce the weight you are working with. As I mentioned earlier, a few extra reps now are not worth the time you could miss as you recover from an injury.
This year’s tragic bombing of the Boston Marathon has sparked a new saying: “If you see something, say something,” reminding us all that we are the first line of defense when it comes to our own as well as our neighbors’ safety. This motto could also be used in the gym when you see someone demonstrating poor form; say something, but you better make sure you know what you are talking about first.