Everyone knows that cheating is wrong. Yet it’s exhilarating at times to see just how much you can get away with. If you fudge on your taxes, you may end up with more money in your pocket, but you could also wind up in prison. Two-timing on your boyfriend may be tempting, but it can also lead to a variety of problems that even penicillin won’t cure. Cheating on your form in the gym in an attempt to lift heavier weight or squeeze out a few more reps to impress onlookers can lead to stalled gains and debilitating injuries.
In order to get stellar results in the gym you need to lift progressively heavier weights, but more importantly, you need to learn and maintain good form. To help you have successful workouts and prevent you from getting injured, allow me to identify several form abuses, as well as suggestions for fixing them.
Bench presses are crucial for developing the size and strength of your chest, but when they are not done according to proper form they can lead to all sorts of injuries. Often, I see guys arching their backs so that a small log can actually fit between your back and the bench. This will lead to low back injuries in a hurry.
Correct this by keeping your back totally against the bench so that not even a piece of paper can be slipped beneath you. Wide-grip lat pull-downs are a fundamental part of every back routine. I often see guys rushing through this exercise leaning forward, pulling the bar down behind the neck. Correct this by pulling the bar down in front of you to your chin with your back slightly arched, and your chest puffed out. After pulling the bar down, hold it steady for two seconds, then take one-to-two seconds to let it rise back up to starting position. A special note here: Wide-grip lat pull-downs and shoulder barbell and dumbbell presses should never be performed behind the neck, since this can lead to rotator cuff damage.
Biceps curls with barbells, E-Z curl bars, and dumbbells are essential for adding mass to arms, and chiseling those peaks in your biceps. But as you lift, focus on contracting biceps and not arching your back. Swinging, jerking and arching the back as you curl does not build your arms, it causes injuries. Instead, keep your body vertical. If you can’t, then use a lighter weight. Practice curling while keeping your back against a wall, or while seated on a bench.
Squats are perhaps the most effective weight training exercise you can do in the gym. They not only work quads, hamstrings and glutes better than any other exercise, but there is practically no muscle group, from abs to triceps, that don’t benefit from squatting. I am often horrified when I see guys leaning forward, knees over their toes and spines flexed. When you squat, keep your back straight, your head up and your toes pointed outward. Drop your butt down and keep the backs of your upper legs slightly less than parallel to the floor. Squat down slowly and become more explosive as you come up, using your glutes, hams and quads to push you up.
You have a lifetime to lift all the weight in the gym, but if you cheat on your form and hurt yourself, you’re liable to end up with injuries that will take you out of circulation, maybe for good!
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions about workout form.