This article discusses why it is critically important for any exerciser, no matter how experienced, to focus on perfecting technique while undertaking any type of training program.
Exercise technique is such a critical component to the success of your training plan, but we often see people learn exercise techniques from sources that may be incorrect, such as online videos or watching others in the gym.
Remember that correct technique is important for maximising results and preventing long term injuries.
Firstly, speed does have purpose in many activities; however we must master technique before playing with speed. The amount of time a muscle is under tension can significantly alter the result of training gains.
One of the biggest contributions to bad technique in the gym is executing the exercise too quickly. This is generally associated with the eccentric (negative) phase of a lift where the biggest mistake is gym goers use the speed of momentum to lift the weight.
Research has repeatedly demonstrated that training with controlled movement helps the body to stabilise itself. By emphasising both eccentric and concentric (up and down) phases of each movement a slower, more controlled velocity we focus heavily on stabilisation and place greater demand on connective tissues, which better prepares nervous system for functional movements.
For muscles to be working properly (getting stronger) they need to be first initiated from the nervous system.
Stabilisation helps to build the foundation for optimal movement of the human body and should always be the main focus for beginners.
This is also a key concept before training for other specific goals as it focuses on the recruitment of tissues in the body that responsible for postural stability.
Slow actions through muscle contraction give us ability to elicit higher number of cross bridges, which leads to maximum amount of tension in a workout. Control is a must for building the foundation for other forms of strength and power training that could follow.
If your focus is not on control, typically you will not be getting the maximum benefit to strength or stability and could be setting yourself up for poor technique and an overuse injury.
Another big contribution to poor technique is lifting too heavy.
People are always eager to lift more than they should. We must first learn to correctly perform an exercise before maximising load. The better your training technique is, the more effective the training outcome will be!
The heavier the load is, the harder it can be to maintain good technique, therefore placing unwanted stress on incorrect working muscles.
Progressive overload (increasing load progressively each session) can be great for our body, however too much stress can cause our training to go backwards.
We must learn to progress at a rate that is most effective for our bodies to limit injury and maximize results.
Focusing on technique and lifting a weight that is lighter can result in:
- Limit the risk of injury – if a client is injured they can no longer train and therefore lifting lighter can be more beneficial in long run
- Help you perform the movement with greater control
- Allow you to focus on contraction of the working muscles through full range of movement
- Ideally you want to work each muscle through its natural range of motion to help with development – lifting heavier can reduce range of motion and cause more unwanted stress on joints.
When the focus is on mastering technique, we must be mindful of lifting too heavy and control the movement in both eccentric and concentric phases of the lift.
Key concepts that could maximise results include:
- Requires more sustained focus through full range of motion over a relatively greater period of time. This therefore creates greater tension on the working muscles
- Allow you to solely focus on what we call the mind-muscle connection. This helps you to be more in tune with your body and the muscles that are activated and working through different parts of the movement.
- Provide a much more challenging workout with much lighter weights therefore causing less stress on the joints and maximising gains.
- Provide insight into your weak areas of technique in the movement
- Work on breathing, control and mental stamina.
- Just because an exercise is not causing pain during or straight after exercise does not mean that you could be setting yourself up for an injury. If you are injured then you are unable to train – lighter weights lifted with more control are less likely to cause injury
It is important to remember that no matter what speed or tempo you use in to illicit a training response for a specific goal, technique is one of the most important aspects of any lift at any speed.
You must be mindful of what weight you lift and how it may be compromising your technique. Incorrect or unsafe weight training can lead to unwanted injuries.
Take a step back and focus on your technique to set your body up for success.
The better we can move in our training, the better we can move in real life!
- NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training
- Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning – G. Gregory Haff, PhD and N. Travis Triplett, PhD
- Super Slow Resistance Training – Jeff Nelson, M.Ed. and Len Kravitz,Ph.D.
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