Sunday, October 16, 2011

What is good exercise form?

This is one very frequent question that I get asked in the gym as I am training my clients.  When performing a particular exercise and see another person doing the same exercise differently; perhaps in a manner that I had previously cautioned my client against.  My client will then ask –Is their form wrong?  Should we correct them?

I wanted to make this one of my first issues to tackle in the blog since I will be addressing exercise form time to time. 

In the “real world” I prefer to think about exercises in a realm of Risk vs. Benefit—rather than Right vs. Wrong.

Your goal may be to excel in a particular sport, requiring your exercises to mimic the extreme movements of that sport. This in turn may jeopardize you living pain free life years down the road. 

To illustrate this take one of the most popular exercises –The Bench Press.  When I first started training I worked with a trainer who had been a competitive Power Lifter most of his life, he did very well in his sport, thus winning several competitions.   Unfortunately when performing a “Competition Bench Press” the rules requires that the barbell is lowered all the way to the chest. The study of Kinesiology has sense taught us that performing the Bench Press in this fashion places the rotator cuff at risk  (in a future blog we will go into the specifics on this).  Anyway, as a result of years of doing the Bench Press in this fashion (with very heavy weight) this trainer was forced to rely on shoulder injections every three or four months just so he could sleep at night.   At the time I lost track of him he was considering shoulder replacement surgery.

By doing the exercise in this fashion he saw the benefit of winning the competition outweighing the long-term consequences on his health.   Also, he may not have been aware of the long-term consequences because back when he did a lot of this we didn’t have the scientific information that we do today. 

The goals and workout of a Professional Football Player might be very different from workout and goals of a 45-year-old Female.  Anyone who has know a Professional Football Player after his retirement from the game knows that they physically pay a price for the intensity of the sport.  

Problems arise when certain exercises (or the way we perform them) work their way into the mainstream that have a higher risk to benefit ratio than the average exerciser might want to take.

In the future when we critique certain exercises be aware that we are not calling them wrong, but wanting to alert you to a high risk to benefit ratio.   When possible we will show ways to make the exercises safer.

In the end for most of us it is finding a balance between our goals and exercises can help us safely and effectively achieve those goals, thus allowing us to maintain our exercise program well into our senior years. 

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