Everyone says proper form is important when it comes to working out. But is it really?
Well, the short answer is yes, and today, we’ll take a look at the eight reasons why.
Let’s get started!
Reason #1: It Helps You Keep Injuries at Bay
Let’s start with the most obvious and important one: injury prevention. By exercising with improper form, you’re putting yourself at risk of tearing a muscle, ligament, or tendon, dislocating a joint, breaking a bone, or developing chronic aches and pains.
It doesn’t matter if you’re lifting weights, doing calisthenics, or doing sports-specific training. Forcing your body to work against resistance or high-impact forces at awkward angles is a recipe for disaster. Period.
But what if you’re just starting out and you’re lifting super light weights? Should you still be concerned with proper form?
That’s actually the perfect time to focus on and master proper exercise form. The goal should be to build good habits at the beginning of your fitness journey so you can stay safe once you start lifting heavier weights, jumping higher, running longer distances, and training at higher intensities.
Reason #2: It Allows You to Hit the Right Muscles
Another benefit of working out with proper form is it helps you train the right muscles, which, in turn, helps you get bigger and stronger faster.
Let’s say you’re doing pull ups, which are supposed to hit your back and biceps (i.e., the primary movers). If you swing, kick, or use momentum to pull yourself up, you take the primary movers out of the equation, robbing them of the stimulus they need to get bigger and stronger.
The same goes for isolation movements like bicep curls or lateral raises. Any form of swinging, swaying, or thrusting to get the weights up significantly reduces—or eliminates completely—the effectiveness of the exercise.
If you want to reach your fitness goals faster, you’ll need to leave your ego at the door and stick with weights that are challenging enough but not so heavy that they force you to compromise your lifting form. Just add more weight as you get stronger.
But what about bodyweight movements like pull ups? How do you reduce the weight if you’re lifting your own body?
The key in this case is modifying the movements or using bands to make them easier to perform.
In the case of pull ups, for instance, you can use a resistance band tied to the bar to help you initiate the movement (i.e., the most challenging part) more easily. For push ups, on the other hand, you can do knee push ups instead to reduce the weight you have to push off the ground.
Reason #3: It Helps You Develop Proper Technique
But what if you’re training for a marathon or any other type of sport that’s focused more on proper technique than carrying heavy loads?
Performing each movement with proper form is crucial in this case too because what you do in training, you’ll do in competition, and poor form and technique obviously put you at a serious disadvantage—especially against elite-level competition.
It doesn’t even matter what kind of sport you play. Are you an MMA fighter? You won’t be able to generate enough power if you throw strikes with bad form. A basketball player? You’re more likely to get injured if you have poor jumping and landing technique—that and your shooting would suffer too.
There’s just no way you’ll be able to move as fast, throw as far, or jump as high as someone with flawless technique if you have bad form.
Reason #4: It Helps You Get More Out of Your Workouts
Of course, bad form also usually means a lot of wasted energy.
If you’re lifting weights, using momentum or other muscle groups to aid the primary movers forces your body to use more energy than necessary to get the job done. The same goes for cardiovascular exercises.
Needless to say, the faster you burn through your energy stores, the faster you get tired and the less you accomplish in the gym or (in competition). This, in turn, prevents you from getting more out of each training session (or dominating in your sport).
The goal should instead be to get more work done with less energy so you can get more out of each training session.
Reason #5: It Prevents Muscular Imbalances
Another problem with exercising with bad form is that it creates muscular imbalances, especially when you lift really heavy weights. In most cases, what ends up happening is that one side of the body becomes significantly stronger than the other.
Left unchecked, this simple issue could lead to much bigger problems down the line because your body will start to favour its stronger side more and more over time. This, in turn, could cause poor posture (or even full-on scoliosis), limited mobility, and chronic aches and pains.
So, focus on mastering proper form early on so you can stay healthy, keep training, and keep making progress for a long, long time.
Reason #6: It Provides You With a Consistent Way of Tracking Your Progress
Progressive overload is one of the keys to making continuous improvements in the gym. The concept is simple: you increase your training volume (i.e., reps x sets, x weight) over time to force your body to keep getting bigger, faster, and stronger.
Of course, you can only increase your training volume if you know exactly what you did last time. If you keep changing your form to alter the difficulty of the exercises you’re performing, then you can’t really tell how much volume you’re logging each session.
Let’s say you did 5 sets of 5 reps of 90-kilogram squats last week using the full range of motion. The following week, you bumped the weight up to 100 kilos, but had to significantly cut the range of motion short because the increase in weight was too much for you to handle.
Did you really do more work or did you end up reducing your training volume instead? There’s no way to tell. The only thing that’s clear is that you put your knees and back at risk of getting injured because of quarter squatting and trying to lift a load that you’re clearly not ready for.
You would have been much better off sticking with the same 90-kilo weight for a bit longer, adding significantly less weight to the bar, or simply doing more reps per set instead.
Reason #7: It Keeps Other People in the Gym Safe
Lifting heavy loads with improper form puts you at risk of falling over or accidentally dropping the weight, which are obviously not what you want happening in a crowded gym.
And even if there’s not a lot of people in the gym while you’re training, you could still cause serious damage to the equipment or the gym itself if you end up falling over or accidentally dropping the weight you’re using.
Reason #8: It Looks Good
The eighth and final reason may sound a bit superficial, but it’s a concern a lot of people who work out have nonetheless: looking good.
At the end of the day, nobody wants to look like a total noob in the gym—and nothing says clueless lifter (or ego lifting D-bag) more than performing exercises with bad form.
If you want to look like you actually know what you’re doing, focus on proper form first before picking up heavier weights or performing higher-impact, higher-intensity activities.
Form Above All Else—Always!
Before you worry about getting bigger, faster, and stronger, make sure you master proper form first. It’ll help you stay safe (and keep other people in the gym safe too), get more out of your workouts, progress faster, and look better. Everything else will follow naturally.