I've written a lot in the past about the correct weights for your goals, the right number of sets and reps, and the frequency of training.
Today I'm going to talk about something equally as important: form.
What I'm talking about here is how you do your exercises. The range of movement, the speed of your exercises, your technique and your form.
Your technique when exercising determines how effectively you are working out target muscles. Improper form can result in missing out on key muscle groups, resulting in slower progress. Every exercise has a way to do it, and many ways not to do it. Get this right, and youre off to a great start. If you're unsure, consider getting a personal trainer or some gym instruction. And don't get complacent. Stay aware of your motions and correct yourself if you notice youre slipping into bad habits.
Just as important is form. I'm not talking about the muscles you're exercising here, but your posture, how you move the rest of your body as you carry out an exercise. It can very tempting to slip into poor form as it can make it some exercises seem easier. However, youre not doing yourself any favours if you do. As well as limiting the potential gains for the muscles youre trying to workout, and youll be setting yourself up for injury.
When you're exercising, you should also consider the range of movement over which you're exercising. Its easy at the end of a set to cheat by only doing a partial lift, but by doing so you're cheating yourself out of some serious gains. A study testing the effect of completing a full motion when exercising arm muscles led to a 60% greater improvement in muscle strength compared to partial movement.
However, you have to be careful when exercising your muscles over a wide range of motion. Exercising in this way tends to cause more muscle strain, which is great for improving strength, but has the potential to lead to injury. This is another reason to make sure you get your technique right.
The speed which you carry out your exercises also impacts their benefits. If you rush your exercises, your muscles will not be under tension for as long as if you take your time. Sure, this makes the exercises easier of course, but by rushing it is very easy for your technique to become sloppy.
You might have heard people touting the importance of time under tension in the past. It is true that if you lift the same weights for the same number of reps, taking longer over your exercises leads to greater strength gains. However, by slowing down your exercises, the number of reps you can manage drops. Research has shown that if you slow down too much, this trade-off is not worth it. Take your time and make sure you lift with good technique, but theres no need to labour your workouts.
If you want to see success in the gym, work hard. But dont let your form and technique suffer as a result. Get these wrong, and you're setting yourself up for failure.
If you're in doubt, hire a fitness instructor to set yourself on the right path.