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Good Form: It's Not for the Weak

by Scott Gray,

Here's a quick multiple choice quiz. Does the effectiveness of a workout depend on:

  • Speed.
  • Heavy weights.
  • Number of repetitions.
  • Form.

If you read the title, you probably guessed the correct answer is "Form." But does that reflect how you actually work out?

Contrary to common practice, good form is essential for effective workouts. In this article, we'll explain good form so you can maximize results and prevent injuries.

Well, maybe "maximize" is overstating the situation. Something that people with poor form have in common, and you can observe this first-hand at any gym, is that after they make their initial progress they plateau out. This usually happens within three to six months. After that, no matter how many years they spend going to the gym they look the same. They are wasting their time. And their health.

What is form?

Think of form as the quality with which you are exercising a specific muscle group. Your form depends upon the method in which you perform the exercise. The better your form, the better your workout will be. For example, getting six pack abs will be far more achievable if you are doing those crunches correctly. Yes, it will hurt more, but cheating will not get you the good results.

Your form is good when your motions, joint alignment, speed, and breathing conform to the standard for that exercise. Good form is biomechanically correct, and it achieves the proper stimulus to the intended muscle.

An example of good form is pulling your shoulders back (by trying to pinch your shoulder blades together) during the bench press. Most people fail to do this, and thus work their front deltoids. This leads to muscle imbalances and an asymmetrical look, in addition to leaving you with an underpowered, underdeveloped chest. People round their shoulders forward, because doing so allows them to lift more weight. But correcting this builds your chest muscles and ultimately increases your bench press far beyond what a shoulder rounding person can achieve.

Why is good form important?

Good form is not only important for correctly exercising a muscle group and attaining more impressive results, but is also key to preventing injuries. Strains, tears, and overuse injuries can all easily occur with poor form. And such injuries are nearly always attributable to poor form. Do you see the obvious solution, here?

How to use good form in your workouts:

  • Concentrate on the specific muscle group you are working. Feel the movement in that particular muscle. The rest of your body should not be assisting you.
  • Use slow and precise movements. You should be in control of the movement at all times. Never let gravity or the weight itself take control. Performing the movements too fast is a sure sign of poor form. The movement should be at the same speed in both directions.
  • Feel the burn of the muscle you are targeting. You know you are working out correctly when only the appropriate muscle is burning.
  • Stability. The rest of your body should not be moving to aid you with your weight lift. The only part of your body that should be moving is the part directly associated with the exercise. Be especially aware not to rock or swing your body.
  • Employ a personal trainer if you are unsure of the correct movements. One or two sessions should be sufficient to get you on the right track.
  • Use mirrors to check your movements. Keep an eye on yourself to ensure that you are not inadvertently rocking your body or taking shortcuts in your workout.
  • Do the full range of the movement. Only doing half the motion is also considered poor form as you are only, in essence, doing half a workout.
  • Keep a journal to record your weights and repetitions. Once you are able to perform the exercise correctly, then you can increase reps and weights to increase your strength and fitness.
  • Lower your weights if you must, initially, to regain good form and break bad habits. Once your form is good, increase the weight. It is important to note that it is a far more effective workout done properly and with good form at a lower weight than using a heavier weight with poor form.
  • Start out slow and work up. Starting with too heavy a weight will only increase your chances of an injury.
  • No pain, no gain. While this may be true to some extent, it is important to be able to differentiate between muscle burn and a sprain or tear. If in doubt, stop and seek medical assistance if the pain does not stop. Muscle burn is a sure sign that you are targeting the correct muscle. Work through the burn for an effective workout.
  • Fewer reps. Performing exercises with the correct form will invariably mean that you cannot perform the same number of reps that you would have been doing when using poor form (or cheating or doing it the easy way). Once you have good form you will eventually be able to start increasing the reps, just ensure that you are not tempted to go back to using poor form.


Good form in your workouts will minimize injuries and maximize results. Good form depends on concentration, along with correct and measured movements.

About the Author: Scott Gray is currently a fitness enthusiast who enjoys providing health and fitness tips. He maintains a fitness tips Website where you can find information about stationary exercise bikes, tips for losing weight and getting in shape


Article Authorship

The articles on this site are authoritative, because:

  • Every contributor is an expert in his or her field.
  • The articles comply with the accepted principles of the bodybuilder literature.
  • The articles comply with the teachings of such luminaries as 8-time Mr. Olympia Lee Haney.

 Where an article is not bylined with a specific author's name, it was written by Mark Lamendola (see photos on home page and elsewhere on this site). Mark is a 4th degree blackbelt, has not been sick since 1971, and has not missed a workout since 1977. Just an example of how Mark knows what he's talking about: In his early 50s, Mark demonstrated a biceps curl using half his body weight. That's a Jack LaLanne level stunt. Few people can even come close. If you want to know how to build a strong, beautiful body, read the articles here.

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