Mastering the perfect form for these common gym exercises
Now that summer has finally arrived, we may find ourselves hitting the gym to tone up for the warmer months. While we work hard to shed the winter weight, it is important to remember that the quality of our exercises is as, if not more important than the quantity. Keep your form in check for a safe and effective workout.
But what does ‘good form’ actually mean? The ideal form differs for each exercise, in basic terms, it is a posture that allows you to move with control throughout the exercise and maximise strength and energy.
Adopting good form is important for several key reasons. Firstly, it allows you to build the correct muscles and reap the benefits of your workout. By stressing the target muscle groups for each exercise, your body is then able to adapt and grow to improve strength and endurance.
Good form also allows you to achieve your goals faster, and in a safer way. If your form is incorrect, your body expends more energy trying to cope with the stresses that are distributed unevenly and has less energy to lift heavier weights. Good form can prevent injuries so you can keep training and enjoy the rest of your summer activities.
The important thing to keep in mind, is that the ideal form may differ from body to body. Some people may still feel discomfort and strain while adopting a textbook form, therefore, it is important to consult an expert if the recommended forms don’t work for you. Practice the recommended form for new exercises before trying them out with weights, to ensure that your technique is down pat.
Bench Press is a popular exercise for building chest muscles, shoulders and triceps. Sit down on the bench and draw your feet back towards your butt as far as possible while keeping them planted firmly on the ground. Then lie back on the bench, positioning your body so that the bar is just above your eyes.
The width of your grip will depend on your goals and your body type. A wider grip works the pecs while a narrow grip focuses on the triceps. You can trial different widths of your grip once you feel more comfortable with the movement. For beginners, start by holding your arms out straight and grabbing the bar. Make sure that you are holding the bar as far down on your palms as possible and wrap your thumb around it.
When doing a bench press, squeeze your shoulder blades together and press them down onto the bench whilst raising your chest towards the bar. This may result in a slight arch of your lower back, however, not to worry, this helps maintain a neutral spine position and protect you from injuries.
As you lower the bar, you might notice that the bar hits higher or lower than those around you. Where the bar hits will depend on the width of your grip and the length of the bar. As long as the bar hits your chest somewhere between your nipple line and your top ab, you are bench pressing correctly. Breathe in as you lower the bar and breathe out as you return the bar to the upwards position. Make sure you keep your body tight and push upwards while squeezing your glutes and driving your heels into the ground.
Basic Barbell Back Squats
Weighted squats are most commonly done in a squat rack with the barbell resting on your upper back. The ideal form for weighted squats begins with your feet shoulder width apart and toes pointing slightly outwards. The bar should be roughly around the height of your collarbone.
As you squat, squeeze your glutes and move your hips backwards while keeping your shoulders back and chest up (spine in neutral position). Continue moving downwards until you break parallel, meaning your hips should be below the tops of your knees.
While squatting, make sure that your feet remain firmly on the ground, you should be driving down through your heels, keeping the majority of the weight off the balls of your feet (all weight on the heels is not good either!) Ultimately, you should be able to lift your toes up and wriggle them at all points during the exercise. Keep your knees aligned with your toes/middle of the foot and your head in neutral position looking forward.
It helps to practice your squat form with just your bodyweight before moving on to weighted squats. A broomstick can help you get used to how to position the bar on your back and how you should move while it is resting there.
These are just a few tips on how to maintain good form while performing these exercises. If you experience pain or discomfort or are still unsure if your form is correct, contact our friendly team for advice specifically tailored to your body and your goals.
If you would like to learn more about how to improve your performance at the gym, or about preventing and recovering from sport related injuries, book an appointment online or contact Fairfield Physiotherapy at 94897744.