How To Optimize Form And Technique For Strength Training

We base our recommendation for what we consider to be optimal form and technique during exercise on three criteria:
1. Effectiveness
2. Safety
3. Efficiency

Our philosophy and method of strength training focuses on performing exercise to stimulate not demonstrate strength. To Accomplish this our technique involves moving in a slow and controlled  manner in order to minimize momentum and thereby apply  a meaningful load to muscle during the exercise. This slow controlled lifting also reduces the high forces that can be placed on the tissue when attempting to move in a fast and explosive fashion. Therefore, lifting in a slow and controlled manner working towards momentary muscular failure/fatigue can lead to gains in a more efficient and safe manner.

We have discussed the purpose for training to momentary muscular failure/fatigue and why it is effective in detail in previous blog posts. 

When we evaluate exercise from a safety perspective we first examine what the primary mechanism of injury typically is. The primary mechanism by which injury occurs during strength training is related to force applied to the tissue. Injury typically occurs when the force placed upon the tissue (muscle, tendon, ligament, bone) is greater than the structural integrity of that tissue. There are two primary ways this can happen. 

1. The first is related to movement speed. Many times it is thought that lifting a heavier load or  weight is what increases  the risk of injury. However,  If we take simple physics where (force = mass x acceleration) we can see that the acceleration of the load plays just as big a role in force production as does the mass. If a weight is accelerated by either an attempt to move explosively or create a rapid change in direction  the forces can be quite high. By moving in a slow and controlled manner with smooth turnarounds you can avoid the excessive forces that can lead to injury. This can be easily demonstrated and seen with our ARX technology which gives immediate feedback on force production through a force plate. Although we set the speed of motion at a slow rate, when someone tries to rapidly exert force rather than ramping up force, you will see an immediate spike in force production. This can even be seen in isometric exercise when force is attempted to be produced rapidly. By ramping up the effort and keeping a continuous smooth exertion of force you are minimizing the high impact forces associated with acceleration. 

2. The second mechanism of injury is related to positioning. Proper positioning and technique in each exercise is critical. When joints are put in compromised positions the amount of force that can be safely applied will be reduced. One example would be during the performance of a leg press.

  1.  Maintain a neutral spine. If you allow your pelvis to tilt anteriorly, you may find yourself pushing from your lower back versus your hips and therefore comprising the structure of your lower back.
  2.  Maintain solid contact and pressure through the ball of foot, outside of foot, and heel, and ensure that the knees remain in line with the middle of the foot. If you allow the knees to cave inward towards each other you are now compromising the structure of the knee and placing undue stress on the ligaments.

One basic concept that can help with reducing the risk of injury is to remember that the primary objective of exercise is to stimulate, not demonstrate strength. One of the most potent ways to stimulate is train a muscle to fatigue. It is often when we focus on moving the weight versus working the muscle that we lose our form and technique.

Schedule a free Quantified Strength Training Session here!