Having worked in gyms for much of my career I have seen a lot! The go hard or go home mentality, the no pain no gain, and the quick and fast is best training, to name a few. I can understand how these forms of training are popular because people feel they are working hard when they train like this. You sweat, you puff, and you feel exhausted at the end of a session. But really how beneficial is it for your body to train like this if you haven’t got good movement experience under your belt?
Most of the clients I work with have some sort of past experience with training when they come to see me but very few have an understanding of good movement. The first session I do is always an assessment. I like to test simple movements at a really slow and controlled speed such as a squat or a lunge to see how well people can balance and maintain integrity of their movement. This test tells me a lot about how someone moves through their everyday life, and what sort of issues might arise for them when they are playing sport or working out. When we slow a movement down it takes away the ability to cheat by using momentum, and it highlights what areas of the body are compensating during that movement. This is an important step in training for myself and for my client. How can you perform something well if you can’t do it slowly first?
If you can remember back to the last time you learnt a new sport you can probably remember how it was a brain strain for the first few months or so while you learnt the basic skills of the sport, and while your body adapted to the movement demands. Strength and fitness training are no different. I teach clients, whether they are new to training or if they are elite athletes, to perform 5-6 repetitions of each exercise at a slow and controlled pace so they can find and feel the correct muscles and learn how to execute the exercise with good form. This lays the foundation for the best strength and fitness results. Once clients can perform these movements with control, speed can safely be added without interfering with the integrity of the movement. This makes training far more effective and translates seamlessly into everyday life and sports performance.
I think sometimes we can lose sight of why we are training, and we get caught up in the need to lift the heaviest weight we can or to do as many reps as we can without any thought of how we are doing it or why we need to do it in the first place.
Next time you hit the gym, try being mindful of how you are performing your exercises. Can you feel the right muscles working, and do you know what the right muscles are? If not, is it the best exercise for you or is there a different exercise you could choose for your body to feel the correct muscles? Take your movements slow to give you the best opportunity to do them well. Form is always the most important part of training and injury prevention. In my training plans I use the formula Form + Load + Speed = Performance.
Good luck and until next time!
Professional movement specialist