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Proper form - yes, but sometimes no

What is proper exercise form and do I need to do it? The short answer is yes. For any given movement task there are a variety of different techniques you could use to achieve it, but some strategies will be more effective than others. That means there is obvious value in learning how to do things properly and in practicing good technique. But how proper form translates into real life is a bit more complicated.

Most of us have heard the directions about how to pick up a heavy box: lift with your legs, not with your back. Turn and face the object you are lifting, don’t bend and twist with your spine or something to that effect. This is pretty solid advice. Your spine is better able to handle heavy loads in a neutral position instead of a bent or twisted position. So if you want to get better at picking up heavy things, you should probably practice picking them up with good form. You will probably find that you can lift more and you are less likely to get injured in the gym or at the office.

But what about if you want to pick up your dog that is in the middle of the street or catch a child that is jumping into your arms. What is the proper form for that? Are you going to have time to turn, hinge, brace and lift? Probably not, and even if you did, what about the times where you step awkwardly off a curb or pick up a delivery from Amazon as you run out the door and your form is not perfect. If you have not practiced or trained your body in these positions and instead you only practice “proper form” are you more or less likely to get injured? Because movement in real life is so varied, the concept of what perfect form is for all the different tasks we have to do in different situations is constantly changing. Instead of thinking about what movements are good and which are bad, we encourage people to think about what movements they are prepared to do safely.

I regularly instruct patients with low back pain to do exercises that involve bending forward with a rounded back and standing back up with weights, or have people with knee pain squat with their knees twisting in or with their weight shifted all the way to their toes as a way to build tolerance for those movements. We don’t train these alternate patterns with the same volume or intensity as we might train something more traditional. Our bodies are not prepared to handle the same loads in those positions safely and likely never will. But it is still important to train in varied patterns so you can build resilience and actually reduce your risk for injury when you end up needing to do something in real life that isn’t “perfect”. Also, it is way more fun to mix things up and explore the different ways your body is able to move. So experiment with different forms and techniques in ways that you are able to do safely, and as you train you might be surprised to find out how much better you are able to move both in the gym and out of it. If you have pain during the day or you have questions about how you can move better, SportsPlus is here to help. You can call or book a free consultation online at anytime.

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