Muscle, Not Momentum: Watch Your Form!

Saturday morning, after putting about 90 minutes in on the treadmill, I headed down to the lower level of my gym to stretch and do a few ab exercises before I headed out for the day. After a few minutes, I found myself staring at the woman a few feet away from me lifting – or shall I say, THROWING – weights.

Here’s the thing … I’m a stickler for proper form. It goes back to the days of Steven doing crazy things like sticking his hands under my toes and telling me to squat (and not pinch his fingers). There are very few strength training exercises in which proper form involves a throwing motion. So when I see someone using blatantly incorrect form, it makes me a little crazy.

Yes, it’s going to be more difficult to use your muscle to lift a weight, versus your momentum. But it’s also going to make you stronger. Plus, throwing a weight, instead of using a steady, controlled motion, introduces a much greater possibility for injury.

So, how can you make sure you are on track to build strength, rather than risking injury? Just be aware of what you are doing. Take a peek in the mirror, and pay attention to how your body is moving. Make sure your core remains tight, and that your shoulders, hips and knees don’t have any unnecessary pressure placed on them.

And slow down! It’s not a race. It shouldn’t take you 10 minutes to do one set of 12, but it shouldn’t take you 10 seconds, either. If you’re moving at hyper speed, one of two things is probably happening – you’re either using your momentum or you need to find some heavier weights (or, if you’re using momentum because the weights are too heavy, lighten up a bit).

Most of all, be conscious of how your muscles feel. If you are doing a bicep curl, but you feel your back working, you are throwing yourself out of alignment. My goal tends to be to get the most work done in the least amount of time – but I would never sacrifice good form in order to save a few minutes (how can you save a few minutes? Shorten your rest times between sets. Add cardio interval bursts. Use compound exercises).

That said – just be aware of your body. Proper form is what is going to keep you healthy, build your strength, and ensure that you continue on the path to the best shape of your life. Remember – muscle, not momentum!

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