Jackie Wight: Tips to avoid breaking form
July 16, 2015
What does the term "breaking form" mean? It generally means that an individual is utilizing some form of compensation to perform an exercise.
This gives the illusion of performing the exercise authentically when in truth they are using a part of the body that should not be involved in order to provide momentum (i.e. hips, etc.). While there are occasions when momentum is utilized in some fitness training modalities, traditional muscular strength training is not one of those occasions.
Momentum is often present when too heavy a weight is being lifted. And, momentum may appear as a swinging or throwing motion of a body part attempting to compensate for lack of strength or mobility at the muscle site. When this occurs, not only is there a significant risk of injury, but additionally, the outcome is a diminished training effect of the desired muscle group(s).
While there are dozens of examples of exercises where breaking form is common, the two following exercises will be discussed this week — the lateral raise and biceps curls due to the frequency with which these exercises are executed while breaking form. As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.
Lateral Raises – This exercise predominately trains the medial deltoid, which is the middle of the shoulder. Often, the biggest culprit causing form to break during this exercise is attempting to lift too much weight. This is a relatively small muscle, consequently, the load will be significantly less than when you perform a biceps curl or lat pull down (i.e. the smaller the muscle, the lighter the load). Additionally, the palms should be facing the floor at shoulder height (i.e. parallel to the floor) when in the lifted position and then arc across the front of the thighs with the palms facing one another as the arms return to the beginning position.
Due to too much weight, the exerciser may throw their arms up, above shoulder height, as they lift and then accelerate on the down phase of the contraction, since they cannot control that amount of weight, increasing momentum. Not only does this not authentically train the deltoids, when the arms, with the palms facing downward, move above shoulder height, impingement of soft tissue within the shoulder joint may occur. Therefore, lifting to shoulder height only, with an appropriate amount of weight using no momentum, is the goal.
Biceps Curls – This exercise trains the anterior segment of the upper arm. While there are dozens of variations of biceps curls, the classic curl with the palms facing forward, arms suspended by the sides of the body, is the one chosen for this example. The shoulder should be relatively quiet during this exercise. The biceps are a single joint muscle group and consequently, in general, we only move from the elbow joint bringing the forearm toward the shoulder (i.e. approximately 150 degrees from the anatomical position of 0 degrees). If the weight is too heavy, the exerciser leans their torso backward to compensate or swings the forearm toward the upper arm, moving more from the shoulder than the elbow joint, breaking form. Consequently, with the appropriate amount of weight, attempt to keep the body stabilized while lifting the forearm toward the shoulder, avoiding any momentum use.
Jackie Wright is the owner/manager of Mountain Life Fitness LLC in Granby. She may be reached at her website at http://www.mtnlifefitness.com, her email at firstname.lastname@example.org and her Facebook page at Mountain Life Fitness.
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