Here are four signs that your lifting form may need improvement:
– Sign #1 –
Your form sucks on video
If you really want to get a read on your form, record yourself on video from multiple angles. Regardless of whether or not you’re an expert strength coach, anyone who’s spent at least several years consistently pursuing their strength training goals will have a solid idea of what proper form looks like from a visual perspective. More importantly lousy form will look visibly obvious even to an untrained eye.
Look for glaring asymmetries, excessive momentum, postural aberrations (i.e. spinal flexion or extension), or any shifting and wiggling throughout the repetitions. Also examine whether or not your form changes from the beginning to the end of the set. In addition, find a video of your favorite trainer, athlete, or strength coach demonstrating proper form then compare your video to theirs. Yes there will be subtle biomechanical issues you won’t pick up on however you’ll most likely be able to address a majority of the larger and more obvious technique aberrations.
– Sign #2 –
You’re obsessed with progressive overload
Progressive overload is a critical component of resistance training. Without it, it would be nearly impossible to gain significant levels of strength or size as it’s the cornerstone for what drives training success. However, rushing progressive overload is a surefire way to develop form and technique issues. Unfortunately this describes many lifters as they feel so obsessed with demonstrating tangible progress at each workout that they’ll go to any and all lengths necessary to grind out that extra rep or additional load even if it means sacrificing technique.
However “strength progressions” that occur under the auspices of form degradation and aberrant mechanics is in fact pseudo progression as the trainee did not gain true strength or size but simply became more efficient at cheating their way through the movement. In other words they’re producing a false sense of progression. Simply put if you’re one of those lifters that feels compelled at all costs to demonstrate signs of progressive overload each and every workout, chances are that somewhere down the road you began sacrificing form and technique. Remember improving form and technical efficiency on a lift is one of the most effective forms of progressive overload there is. Focus on your form and technique and watch how naturally occurring progressive overload becomes.
– Sign #3 –
You rarely perform single arm or single leg movements
Many lifters are under the mindset that sticking solely to the big basic compound movements is all they need to maximize their physique and performance. While going heavy on the basic barbell movements and other bilateral exercises is sure to build significant mass and strength, there’s also risk for developing asymmetries and imbalances. If you’ve been using predominately barbell or even bodyweight movements (i.e. weighted pushups) chances are you’ve developed various asymmetries and imbalances simply from allowing one side of your body to dominate the movement. Periodically including dumbbell, kettlebell, or single limb movements into your routines is critical for not only exposing these issues but also for correcting them.
– Sign #4 –
You’ve been using the exact same movements for years
Sticking to the same lifts year in and year out can lead to a number of imbalances. While endless amounts of exercise variety is unnecessary, periodically switching up your movements or even adding very small modifications can help uncover various weaknesses, imbalances, asymmetries, and dysfunctional mechanics. For instance many lifters unknowingly develop bad habits and form aberrations over the years on basic compound movements. Implementing new or unique exercises periodically into your routine forces you to move out of your comfort zone and learn the subtleties of that new movement. As a result this oftentimes exposes a number of activation deficits and faulty mechanics that you may not have ever tuned into had you not been forced to master a new exercise.