A common question asked by many clients is how they can maximize their workouts creating efficient, effective and results-oriented training sessions. While there are many terrific strategies which have been covered extensively in this column throughout the years, one of my favorite suggestions is to concentrate on precise technique and form when performing every repetition and skill.
This precision really pays off over time. Not just in preventing injuries stemming from improper technique and form, but also creating excellent training outcomes such as improved muscular strength, muscular endurance, power, flexibility and cardiovascular endurance. We may think only of muscular strength training when considering technique and form; however, all components of physical fitness respond positively to proper training techniques and form.
All skills including running, walking, jumping, lifting, pushing, pulling, rotating, throwing, hitting, swinging, etc. may improve with attention to technique details, practice/rehearsal of movement patterns and well-designed overall training programs. No matter how physically gifted, fit or experienced an individual may be, there is always room for improvement.
Even subtle modifications of improved technique and form may have a huge impact on your outcomes. Therefore, let’s discuss a few technique/form strategies creating a self-check system that may help you achieve the progress you are seeking. As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.
Strategy #1: When possible use a mirror or video of your performance. While there may be a few circumstances when mirrors/videos are not warranted or appropriate, in most cases either a mirror or video of your performance will be quite revealing regarding your technique and form.
Strategy #2: Consider the optimal range of motion of the exercise or skill. If the exercise is a bent over row, you will be hinged from the hips and your shoulders/hips/knees/toes all facing the same direction. Many times a client will have their torso rounded or rotated while in a forward flexed position and their back leg externally rotated at the hip joint. These incorrect body placements will have a detrimental impact on the ability of the latissimus dorsi to properly engage, which at the very least will diminish the effectiveness of the exercise.
Strategy #3: Think about what muscle group you are working and make certain that you are experiencing momentary muscle failure at that specific muscle site. If you are feeling any discomfort in a joint or the lumbar spine, you should stop immediately, reset the body’s position and begin again keeping a close eye on your alignment as you begin to fail. Never break form and avoid compensatory changes in your position.
Strategy #4: Break down all compound exercises into the foundational elements. For instance, a full body extension is actually a squat, overhead press and a heel raise. Practice each of these in succession, master each and then attempt to combine all three movements. Once you have combined the movements, then concentrate on your stability, continuous flow of motion and precision.
Strategy #5: The breakdown approach also applies to complex skills such as running, walking, jumping, cycling, lifting, pushing, pulling, rotating, throwing, hitting, swinging, etc. Identify the foundational elements of each skill, master the skill/pattern and then you may begin adding complexity. Once you have mastered the more complex aspects of the skill, then consider adding intensity.