There is a lie in the fitness industry. It may be the greatest lie it tells. If you use good exercise form, you won’t get hurt.
Here’s the truth. What’s the perfect form for any exercise is somewhat different than anyone else on the planet. In fact, if we’re looking with enough granularity, perfect form for you is different every time.
What the industry tells you is the perfect form may be the perfect way to maximize leverage but it’s dependent on one thing. You have to be perfect before you do it. You gotta be sinless before you “come to Jesus.” Now some of you may be calling BS.
“I’m not taught perfect form, I’m taught to scale my exercise.” Really? Are you sure?
Scaling exercise usually entails doing a more leveraged version of that exercise. That could be a pushup from the knees instead of the toes. Or it could be a 1/4 squat instead of a full squat. But are those the only, or best, ways to scale exercise?
What if extending one’s spine needs to be scaled? What if standing symmetrically needs to be scaled? What if so much scaling is necessary that the idea of form needs to be abandoned entirely?
I think the idea of “perfect” form, at least, needs to be retired. And when that is retired, I think we’re going to find a lot of other elements of exercise that will naturally retire themselves, too. And things will return to a far simpler, yet more diverse time.
Whenever we retire perfect form, we stop looking outside for what an exercise is supposed to look like. We change our perspective and focus on what really matters. We look inside and see how an exercise feels.
If it doesn’t feel good, or right, we change our form. We change it until it feels right and good or we don’t do that exercise at all. And when we can’t do one exercise, we look for other exercises.
We stop looking currently in online articles as the best way to do one of the dozen or so exercises we already do, and start looking for other exercises entirely. We may look at alternative equipment like kettlebells or clubs. We may look at other fitness trends like calisthenics or gymnastics and start learning those. Or we may look to the past and see what exercises Old Time Strongmen performed before they fell out of fashion.
Whenever we start feeling how exercise affects us, we start feeling that aspects of a press may feel good, but not all of it…and so we modify it. These modifications leave the press looking less like a 1 Arm dumbbell military press and more like a side press or bent press.
Or our squats may look less like a PL SQ to parallel and more like a hindu squat. Our lunges may look less a forward step and may look we’re bending down and tying our shoes. And our deadlifts may look like how we carry furniture and less like how we are told to pick up a barbell.
And even more interesting things happen when we start lifting this way. The lifts don’t leave us with niggling pains or strange soreness. We don’t feel the need to warm-up, or prepare for the lift…and this does away with a whole segment within exercise.
When I was in youth athletics, we would “warm-up” with calisthenics and stretching (often static). At the end of our practice, we would “cool-down” with more stretching. Times have changed, though.
Warm-ups and cool downs have given way to pre-hab and recovery. But I don’t think pre-hab and recovery practices are all that more intelligent in concept or application than warm-up and cool down. I think they’re all based on a limited view of movement.
Every movement one does is either good or bad for the user. If that’s the case, why would we need to prehab or warm-up for those motions? And if we’re only moving for as long as its good for us, why would we need to recover or cool down?
When we look at a movement practice as something that hurts us, warming up, prehab, cooling down and recovering makes a lot more sense. But when we stop trying to do a movement a perfect way and just move in a way that FEELS perfect to us…and stop moving when it no longer feels perfect, we’ll find that exercise does what it was intended to do all along…it makes us better.
All movement, when done correctly for the individual is corrective exercise for that individual. Exercise has no universal perfect form. Exercise is only perfected when the individual finds the form that is perfect for them.