The Most Important Part of Any Exercise Routine (Hint: It's All About Proper Exercising Form!)
Updated: Aug 28
Whether you’re just getting started in your fitness journey or have been working out for years, it’s crucial to understand the importance of proper form. While many people want to get in the gym and lift as much as they possibly can or do as many reps until failure, what matters more is quality over quantity.
Having the proper form when exercising is beneficial for many reasons. Good form raises your performance level which helps you reap all the benefits of your workout while reducing your risk of injury and pain.
Proper Exercising Form Reduces Risk of Injury
When exercises are not done with the proper form, you greatly increase your risk of injury. This is particularly true as you start to lift heavier weights. Improper form can put a strain on your muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
When you're first learning an exercise, start with light weights that allow you to learn the proper form so that you can build good habits from the start. Always be cautious of your back and joints, such as knees, elbows, and hips as these are the areas that are often affected when improper form is used.
An injury will set you further back in your training, so take your time and gradually increase weights, while always putting an emphasis on performing the exercises correctly to protect yourself. If you need help learning the proper form, consider working with a personal trainer near you who can give you the guidance you need.
Good Form In Exercise Improves Performance
Think about a cyclist who is hunched over on their bike – that poor form prevents the rider's lungs from filling to capacity with breath which means their muscles can't perform optimally and they will fatigue faster. It applies to runners, too.
A runner who doesn't engage their core or correctly position their foot on landing has decreased performance and risk of pain and injury. The same is true for the strength training you're doing when you workout (or for any other exercise that is part of your fitness routine).
When you're lifting weights, improper technique has a big impact on your performance. Studies show bad form in exercise reduces your range of motion which prevents you from reaching your goal – growing stronger. Other studies show that a full range of motion and proper mobility results in higher performance, an increase in muscle size and strength, a decrease in fat, and better training results.
Proper Exercising Form Uses the Intended Muscles
Performing exercises with the proper form also ensures you’re using the targeted muscles, and “feeling the burn” where you should be. For example, when you’re doing a deadlift, you should be engaging your glutes.
However, if you’re feeling pain in your lower back, it could be a clear sign your form is incorrect. By using proper form and the correct muscles, it’s more likely that you’ll see the results where you want to while staying injury-free.
Proper Form When Working Out Conserves Energy
If you’re doing an exercise with improper form, there’s a chance you may be using more energy than necessary. For example, if you’re using your whole body to do a bicep curl, you’re using more energy than necessary (and the weight is likely too heavy). That means you'll fatigue faster and your workout will be much less effective than it could be.
Using the proper form allows you to target the correct muscle and improve your breathing during the exercise. That gives you more power and better results from your workout.
How Do You Know If You Have Good Form When Working Out
Know if you are using the right form for your workout exercises comes down to three principles:
Range of Motion
Often it takes the professional eye of someone who has been trained in biomechanics or kinesiology to use these three principle to make an assessment on your form. But there are some other telltale signs that you could use some help improving your form.
Your joints, ligaments, and tendons are always hurting or you're always sore
You're always feeling like you need to stretch or foam roll
You rush your workout or are more interested in quantity over quality
How to Learn Proper Form For Working Out
Sure, you can watch a bunch of online videos or watch yourself closely in a mirror to see try and correct any form issues you have when working out, but that will only get you so far. There is no substitute for working with a certified personal trainer who is trained to identify what you're doing incorrectly and where you have weaknesses. A personal trainer will work with you to fix form issues you have which will help you reach your fitness goals faster.
Once you learn what good form is for the exercises you're doing during your workout, there are ways to ensure you're using it every time:
Warm up properly – Muscles that are not warmed up are more likely to get injured. Properly preparing your muscles starts off your workout on the right foot.
Think about your workout – Don't let your mind wander off during your workout. Stay present and focus on the muscle groups you're working. One study found that focusing on the mind-muscle connection improves muscle activation which leads to better results.
Use muscles, not momentum – A study shows that you "activate more muscle fibers if you lift and lower weights slowly and with control through the entire range of motion" rather than using momentum or swinging movements. Beginners should choose a weight that they can do 15 reps with.
Use good posture – Stand tall and engage your core. Make sure you're not hunching your shoulders or holding tension in your neck.
Breathe properly – Sometimes if you're really focused on something you can forget to use proper breathing as you exert effort during your workout. Or, if your mind is wandering, you're probably not paying attention to breathing correctly. But using the right breathing techniques is vital for effectively bracing and supporting your spine. Remember, as you begin lifting, inhale. Exhale when you're pressing, and inhale again as you put the weight back in starting position.
Listen to your body – If you're in a lot of pain while you're working out, it's really difficult to focus on good form. Make sure you're paying attention to what your body is telling you and take appropriate action based on that information.
Whether you're a beginner just getting started in strength training or a veteran lifter who has some bad habits to break, one of the certified personal trainers at Inspire Fitness Training Studio in Arlington, MA can help. Schedule a free consultation today to get started!
Joe Rindone, NCPT is a certified personal trainer and the Founder of Inspire Fitness Studio in Arlington, MA. Joe's passion for fitness has motivated him to become one Greater Boston's best personal trainers. An athlete throughout high school and college, Joe has always enjoyed being active. Currently he enjoys road races, working with his boxing coach, kettlebell training and getting out for a round of golf in his spare time.