The Importance of Proper Form

For the readers who have their eyes and ears open for the truth, here are some recommendations regarding exercise performance.

People with low self-esteem refuse to live consciously.

Trainees who use proper form usually have high levels of self-esteem.

They show it by:

  • Being interested in progression, not in theatrics.
  • Lifting for themselves, not for others. They are not concerned about what the other guy thinks of him lifting somewhat lighter loads. Remember: it is not where you start that matters, is where you end that does.
  • Knowing that lifting big loads with improper form will not get you to lift big loads with proper form as quickly as lifting in proper form at all times.
Bad Form, rounded back deadlift
Brendan Chaplin purposefully demonstrating bad form in the deadlift
Bad form, Barbell Curl
Bad form, Barbell Curl

Here are three principles I use to help build character while achieving proper form on exercises.

Principle #1

You should look for ways that will make an exercise harder, not easier.

I actually got this from this line from Arthur Jones, inventor of the Nautilus machines. For example pausing the bar on the floor between reps on the deadlifts creates more overload on the neuro-muscular system than bouncing the plates off the floor. Successful bodybuilders feel the muscle, not the weight! Actually Ben Pakulski whole training methodology is based on this paradigm

There is a very large difference between training for strength and size, and training to lift high loads explosively. These are two different goals, thus two different training methods are used.

Principle #2

Never sacrifice style for increased poundage.

I know people who increase their bench presses by 60 lbs in one month! They do it by adjusting their form as follow:

  • Lifting hips off the bench = + 25 lbs,
  • Bouncing in the bottom position = + 10 lbs
  • Increasing width of grip = +10 lbs
  • Not coming up to lock-out= + 15 lbs.

This is one of the reasons I recommend to change the exercise every 6 workouts or so. When you are just about to hit a plateau, it is time to move on to another exercise.

I remember being in New Zealand in the early nineties, and EVERYBODY used 225 lbs on the bar for bench presses, like if you did not use that much weight you were not worthy of being in that gym. Now you should have seen the different interpretations of what a bench press looked like…They should have renamed the exercise « Supine Two Arms Anyhow »

Principle #3

Lower weights slower than you lift them.

In strength training, you control the weight, the weight does not control you. Even though you are stronger in eccentric contractions than in concentric contractions, you recruit only half the fibers when lowering a load, hence the actual tension on the muscle recruited is double. So take your time and benefit more from your set by maximizing the overload on the eccentric portion of every rep.

Biomechanical studies on top powerlifters at the IPF World Championships revealed that the best performers actually lowered the load the slowest. This, of course, does not apply to Olympic lifters, where they want to use the elastic component as much as possible.

By applying these three principles to your exercise form, you are on your way to faster and greater results.


Coach Charles R. Poliquin

P.S You can find Brendan Chaplin’s book online: The Deadlift