Form. You can’t lift without it. Or can you? Really what is proper weightlifting technique?
In my mind it is about lifting a weight successfully in a safe manner. But let’s complicate the matter. If I didn’t this would be a short article.
You have strict form and you have not so strict form. So if you are doing a curl you can keep it strict to focus on the arms. Or you can cheat and swing the weight into place.
With a military press you need to stay ramrod straight. But if it’s a heavy weight you’ll end up doing some amount of side bend. At what point does is change from a military press to a natural press to a side press? Is one better than another? No it depends on what you’re going for. Plus for comparison these lines are useful. You can’t compare a strict press to a side press on equal terms.
Then there is talk of perfect form on many exercises. That is doing it and matching it to some ideal. The problem with this is that not everyone’s body moves the same. What works fine for one person may cause pain for another.
Perfect case in point. My girlfriend was doing kettlebell swings the other day. She had “good” form in that she was safely and effectively doing the exercise. In order to “improve” her form, specifically going for a certain training effect, I offered one piece of advice. “Make sure to get your hips fully locked out at the top.”
She replied “That hurts when I do that.”
My response, “Forget I said it then. Go back to what you were doing.”
Can your form be improved from wherever you’re at? Almost certainly. Should you seek to move towards an ideal? Yes, but only if it means improved performance.
Sometimes you need to take a few steps back in order to move forward. I understand that. In Olympic lifting for example you do need flawless form to put up really big weights. In fact there is such an emphasis on lifting technique that beginners will spend hours of practice with no more weight than a broom stick.
Other lifts are not so technical. How much do you really want to complicate the deadlift? There is no way to cheat this exercise. It is simply picking up a weight off the floor. Yes, but you need to follow these 17 points before you’re allowed to touch the bar; suck your abs in, keep the back straight, bend the upper back, pull your shoulder blades back, isolate the psoas, raise your hips, spin your right kneecap outward a quarter of an inch…
Don’t get me wrong. A well placed tip, at the right time, can make a big difference. A recent change in my head position helped in my pulls. But to overload a beginner or anyone for that matter with the 11 things they’re doing wrong is not going to help. After all you can only really pay attention to one thing at a time, and do it well. Paralysis by analysis is a real thing and it can stop your lifts from going up.
Many would say my deadlift form is not good. That my back isn’t straight enough. However this seem to work for me. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone starting, but I’d let someone who knows what they’re doing do it.
The truth is if I deadlift in “perfect form” it cuts what I can do by about 25%. I don’t know why this is but it IS. So I’ll let the others do their 315 perfect form deadlifts while I increase what I can do every single workout towards record levels.
Is this going to hurt me? Unless I do something stupid, no. Think about lifting stones. You have to lift these with a round back. You can’t do your classic “perfect form”. Look at the greatest deadlifters now and throughout history. Many have far from perfect form. As long as I feel safe and it works for me I will keep going with it. Will it always be this way? Maybe, maybe not. In either case that’s not now.
For the most part your form will get better with time. And remember I’m talking about “your” form. Not someone else’s. Should you study others as well as books and DVD’s? Should you get coaching? Yes and yes. This gives you new things to try out. You practice it and see what works for you. You discard the rest. And at no time should you think you have it all.
Your weightlifting technique is yours. Seek to improve it where it can be improved. Refine it. But don’t worry if it doesn’t match someone else’s as long as its getting you the results you want.