What does exercise form really mean?

exercise form

FEBRUARY 2015 – Think you have good form when working out?  What if there’s more to good form than meets the eye? Popular belief suggests good form means looking in the mirror or having a trainer watch you to ensure an exercise looks good.

However, you can look good in the mirror, yet be using all the wrong muscles to complete the task. A closer inspection of your movement strategies may reveal hidden cheats creating road blocks to reaching your full potential and setting you up for injury.

Let’s try a very simple movement test. Stand on one leg and then slightly bend your knee (see picture). Repeat this motion five times slowly on each leg. Now, let’s assess how you completed this task. Were you able to keep your trunk upright as if sliding down a wall and avoid tipping forward or to either side?

Health & Fitness ReportWere you able to keep your toes pointing forward and prevent the knee from diving in? Were you able to keep your toes relaxed and the arch of the foot off the ground? Were you able to prevent your back from rounding or arching? Did you use your arms to maintain balance? Did you rely on speed or perform the task slow with control?

If you’re like many, you either couldn’t perform the exercise at all or initially thought you looked good in the mirror, but now realize your toes are scrunched up when you’re on one leg or your trunk is leaning forward when you drop into the small knee bend.

These are just a few of the cheats often seen in this simple movement assessment to indicate that your body lacks efficient muscle function and coordination of the kinetic chain.

It’s not just CAN you complete the exercise but HOW you complete the exercise that matters most. Form is more than just how you look in space; it’s also the sequencing of movement and muscle strategies you use for a particular task. How you complete a task is directly linked to your risk of overuse injuries.  Conditions like IT band syndrome, plantar fasciitis, shin splints, Achilles tendinitis and rotator cuff tendinitis are linked to poorly controlled movement.

Don’t wait until you’ve reached a performance plateau or suffer from recurring overuse injuries to act. Find a movement specialist in your area to analyze “HOW” you move. Get more out of your exercise, get specific with your training, understand your body and preventing your cheats during exercise. For most, improving how you move only takes weeks of dedicated training. Knowing what to do and how to do it is key.

Take charge of your fitness in 2015 and change how you move. Doing so will save you hundreds of hours of wasted time at the gym and likely save hundreds to thousands of dollars in future medical bills. Don’t let limitations of your current workout programs deter you from reaching your goals!  You can work smarter, not harder in 2015.

Article by Danielle Debbrecht

Danielle Debbrecht, PT is a physical therapist and performance specialist at CORE Strategies Physical Therapy, Sports Performance & Medical Fitness in Overland Park. The CORE team specializes in rehabilitation and performance training for clients of all ages and activity levels.  To learn more about CORE’s sport specific programs visit www.coreptkc.com.  Contact Danielle at danielle@coreptkc.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *