There are hundreds of "how-to" videos, articles and manuals on the correct way to squat, deadlift or (insert your favorite exercise). There are even countless classes and group fitness programs that advertise as functional and holistic. Often times the "performance" of the exercise takes priority over the form. If you can lift a lot of weight or move through exercises quickly while working up a good sweat, why do you need to make sure your form is on point?
The Body Bank
Your body reacts to every movement that you do. When the movement is done correctly there is a positive reaction, increased strength, improved joint stability and greater coordination. These are the beneficial outcomes of properly completed exercises and are "plus" deposits into our bodies "bank account". However, when an exercise is done improperly the opposite is also true. Every time a squat is done with the knees caving in or a push-up performed with the shoulder in an unstable position we a creating a negative stress on the body. While we might be able to continue for quite a while without feeling any pain or experiencing an injury, eventually the "withdrawals" build up and the bill must be paid. They might come in the form of a repetitive strain injury that nags and aches for months forcing us to change our exercise routine. Or the result could come screaming at you in a traumatic injury such as a muscle tear, ligament rupture or a herniated disc.
How did we get here?
With this in mind, why are so few people choosing to prioritize attention to the bio-mechanics of exercise? The first trend is that most people don't like to commit to "slowing down"or taking a perceived step backwards (lowering the weights) in order to correct movement deficits. When it comes to exercise though the trend is almost always "more is better." More competitions entered, weight lifted, calories burned or bootcamps completed. The second reason is that the advertising of different activities misleads lots of people into thinking that they are working on functional movements and patterns. Many classes are advertised as "functional fitness" or "core-based training" because they include complex movements (kettle-bell swings, cleans, squats). These exercise can all be great, when programmed properly. However, if you can't create proper torque in your hips during a squat, full external rotation in your shoulder during a press or initiate stability in your trunk during complex lifts, you're going to be withdrawing from your body's bank account each time you exercise. Look at the cable row below, the difference is small but every rep completed like those on the right hand side are going to be increasing your risk for pain and injury in the future.
Where do we go?
The process doesn't need to be complicated and the results are rewarding. However it takes a commitment to the process for success to be achieved. The first step is to create proper mobility and stability throughout the body. Once your body is moving properly and you've gained the motor control to correct the deficits, you will be able to maintain your improved state going forward. After you have created mobility and stability your next step is working through movement patterns, learning to squat, hinge, pull and twist. This involves a little bit of "rewiring" in our nervous system, teaching the brain new ways to activate and move our muscles.
Now you're body is ready for the bootcamps, races and lifts that you've been looking to complete. Over the years you might have made 1000's of "withdrawals" from your account and the time get back to a balanced state will take a little while. For others it might be a quick process with a few minor tweaks to your current routine. The important thing is wherever you are at, start NOW! Don't wait until you're in pain, injured or having to give up on the activities that you love. Don't settle for saying "I have a bad back, I can't do ......". Today is your chance to learn how to move and mobilize properly and put your body's bank account back in the green.