"Sandy is a stickler for form. She catches me the second I cheat on my squats, or use my back in a way that’ll hurt later."

"When I sit at my desk, sometimes I hear Sandy’s voice “Shoulders back, proud chest” and fix my posture. She’s right, it feels better."

Proper Form Tips

Proper form for any exercise activity is based on understanding the body’s musculoskeletal system, movement patterns, lever- and load-principles, and basic geometry. Sound like too much theory? It’s not – it’s inherent knowledge that we all possess and often ignore, until we become injured (rotator cuff, lower back, or sore knees, anyone?).

Lower Back
There are three basic alignment positions for lower back: extension or arching, neutral, or rounding/tailbone under. For most people, neutral is recommended, with engagement of your lower abs and hip muscles to provide strength and stability. If you have any lower back issues, use the ‘tailbone under’ position to further stabilize. Before you add extra weight to any exercise involving lower back, spend some time strengthening your core.

Core Strength
Washboard abs are just window-dressing for core strength. True core strength means complete integration of many muscle groups throughout your torso and hips: intercostals, abdominals (all three layers), back, hip flexors, glutes, and more. So there are many areas to target when looking to build your core. The simplest and most effective way to build integrated core strength is the plank. There are 10 to 20 plank variations so you won’t get bored! Hold it for time, or reps if it’s a moving variation.

The Squat
Protection: knees and lower back
Form: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, toes/knee/hips turned out at 45º. Do not let your knees go past your feet as you push your hips back, like you’re going to sit in a chair. Note comments on lower back above – use a neutral or tailbone tucked position, especially as you increase your weights.

The Breath
This isn’t just a yoga cue! Exhale as you exert, while lifting weight. For example, on a chest press, breathe out as you push the weight away, and breath in as you lower it back into position. Using the breath in this manner will provide mindfulness to your lifting so you stay alert to form and your body’s response.

Bench Press (or Shoulder Press)
Over 80% of gym injuries involve the rotator cuff – the inner shoulder muscles. There are four muscles there and they are more tendinous than larger muscles like the quads or back. Thus, when they get strained or injured, it’s quite painful and it can take a long time to heal. So use the 90º angle principle with either Bench or Shoulder Press; do not let the elbow go below the shoulder with either of these exercises. Keep your elbows at 90º at the bottom of the lift.

Knees
Knees are small but incredible joints that bear a lot of weight, especially during an activity with impact like running. When your knees start to complain, we usually check two things: 1. Alignment in movement. Ensure that with squats, especially single leg squats, the knee stays centered/aligned with the movement of the hip and foot.
2. Tightness of quads, adductors, abductors and IT Band. Nine times out of 10, when the knees are sore, the quads (etc.) are sprung tight. The easy fix is to learn how to stretch properly and to do so religiously after every exercise session.


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