I’m a stickler. That is a fact that if you train with me you know very well.
Learning and using correct form when strength training is, in my opinion, the most important part of your fitness routine. Taking the time to learn can be an agonizing process, but one that’s well worth it in the end.
I’m still learning and working on it and I’ll most likely keep on learning and working on it for as long as I strength train. That is also a fact as I see it.
So, why do I bother so much about proper and correct form?
Because, that’s why.
Just kidding. I do it because in order for us, all of us, to build the true strength, endurance, capacity, efficiency, and longevity we must train correctly. All of our parts are connected and work together in a synchronized way to illicit the movement that we want. That includes all the things that we don’t think about, like sitting, standing and walking. Our bodies sometimes forget what to do in order to maintain posture and gait. This can happen for many reasons. From injury or surgery, from inactivity, from sitting at the computer for too long, slouching, shuffling or dragging your feet when you walk. That’s all besides the point because I want to talk about strength training. Though our everyday habits do have an effect, when it comes to strength training, we should all be starting at the beginning. Learning correct positioning and form.
This should be the standard for all training. For me and for my clients, it is.
There are a handful of basic positions and moves that are the foundations of better movement patterns and strength.
Planks. Squats. Hinging. Pushing. Pulling and Rotating. Learning how to do these correctly, and by correctly I mean, aligning the joints and activating the muscles in accordance to maximize effort and minimize injury. Minimize Injury. That, athletes, is the key.
If you neglect the foundations of strength training, you will at some point get injured. Now, that’s not to say that no injury will occur even if you do all the right things, but we can absolutely minimize injury when we spend time and focused energy on learning the foundations.
The Plank. Everything stems from this position, you want to maintain a straight line from your ears, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles. Elbows and wrists (if you’re on your hands) should be directly underneath your shoulders. All core muscles, glutes, quads, triceps, pretty much all muscles, are activated to hold this position. Work up to holding for 60 seconds for a solid strength building exercise.
The squat and hinge work together, though can and will be trained separately. Learning the hip hinge first will help keep your squat balanced. To Squat, start with your feet about hip width apart, toes facing forward, and core muscles active. Then push your hips back keeping the weight through your heels and drop down (like you’re sitting into a chair) until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Going deeper into your squat is great once you’ve got the foundation down. Keeping your torso upright aids in core strengthening. In a good position, your back/torso, and shins should make parallel lines.
Pushing, like a push up, starts with that Plank. Even if I were doing a pushing move elevated on a bar, bench or TRX, I would start by finding my plank position before initiating the movement. Maintaining that position through the entire movement.
Pulling exercises are the same. With pushing and pulling exercises, we get into shoulder strength and stability, which can take a lot of time to build. Especially, if you spend most of your day at a computer or find yourself hunching forward or slouching. PS–building your core strength a foundational exercise like a plank can also help with the shoulder strength and stability. It’s all connected!
Rotational exercises also will stem from our building strength from the other foundation exercises. Knowing how to control and move together will make your rotating exercises feel good and these are fun ways to work on power. In this last photo, I’m doing a split squat with a cross-body chop. Using my squat techniques, stabilizing my hips and driving the medicine ball diagonally from my shoulder to my opposite hip without falling over. All the foundational exercises are being utilized to perform this one exercise.
So, one of my main objectives as a trainer and coach is to teach and make sure that you understand and can perform these standards correctly. Once that happens, the fun can begin!
Train today to Move Tomorrow!