The Importance of Technique in Injury Prevention (Part 2)

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Since proper technique is the most important aspect we’ll start with it. It is sad how badly most people perform basic exercises.

Gyms everywhere are filled with bad technique and worse advice.
The only reason people don’t constantly get injured is because they aren’t using enough weight to make much damage. Don’t get me wrong technique would definitely improve if some of the ‘bros’ stopped trying to bench 20+ lbs more than they can actually handle.

But for every bro using too much weight there are a couple of gym goers who haven’t challenged their body in years.
They use weights to burn calories instead of using them to get stronger. Weight lifting is not a new type of cardio. Cardio and weight training should be kept separate because they are two different activities that have completely different goals.
So with that side tangent out-of-the-way you should know which group you fall into:

1. Do you use too much weight and can’t perform exercises properly because of it? 

Squat form analysis from the brilliant book: Starting Strength

Squat form analysis from the brilliant book: Starting Strength

In this case the answer is obvious: Lower the weight, leave your ego at the door and start building up with a lighter weight. While you are building up focus on using safe technique. (Here you’ll find videos explaining safe technique for all the big compound exercises.)

2. You focus on technique too much and never get any stronger.

If you fall into the second group you are very unlikely to ever get injured in the weight room. (When I say ‘very unlikely’ I mean that the most likely way for you to get injured would be someone dropping a weight on your foot!) So if this article is about preventing injuries then why is this second group also a problem? You are wasting your time if you aren’t actually making any strength progress in the gym.
You could just as easily stay at home and not bother going to the gym.

We don’t live in a black and white world so you’ll fall somewhere between these two extreme groups I described above. I want to help you find a good balance and make sure you don’t lean too close to either extreme.
Finding balance is often key to progress in the gym. Especially when it comes to balancing good technique with continually striving to add weight to the bar.

So how do you find this balance?

It takes time and patience. You won’t reach it over night and but just keep this balance in mind when you go to the gym. Some very advanced lifters will tell you that they are constantly refining the way they train (finding their balance).
It’s the part of training that takes experience and where a good coach can help you greatly.
But for now I’d like you to think of it like this:
Perfect technique with a weight that is heavy for you does not exist. (Excluding elite strength athletes) There is always something you could improve on in your technique. For the average lifter who wants to lose weight, gain muscle and look good perfect technique isn’t needed.

What you need is ‘good enough technique’.

My definition of ‘good enough technique’ is that you aren’t doing anything that will lead to an increased chance of injury.
Basically you should never be doing exercises in a way that is dangerous.
Your form should also be somewhat efficient. While minor details won’t make much difference for recreational lifters you need at least a basic understanding of how to move a weight efficiently.  That way you’ll actually make strength progress without doing anything dangerous.

I hope I haven’t lost you yet. This might seem complicated and difficult at the moment but trust me once you begin applying it you’ll see it is actually quite simple.

Focus on the basics and you’ll be fine.

This is the WRONG type of balance.

This is the WRONG type of balance.

While trying to achieve perfect technique is interesting to a small group of people most of you would be better off focusing on applying the basics and then not worrying about everything else.
The Internet is filled with information that you probably will never be able to use. Information overload is very real. I believe looking for information on the Internet has become a new way to procrastinate instead of taking action.
In this post you’ll find some videos that demonstrate safe technique on the most important exercises. If you apply all of the tips in these videos your technique will be good enough. At that point you never have to watch another technique video on YouTube.
All you have to do then is make sure you don’t forget to apply the advice once the weight gets heavier for you. If your technique is safe when your aren’t lifting much weight but suddenly turns ugly when it gets hard you are at risk of injury.

Why You Should Film Your Training

An important thing I would like to note here is that you have to film yourself performing the exercises to know if you have good technique. No, checking in the mirror isn’t enough. (If you are checking your form in the mirror by definition you are doing something wrong….You shouldn’t be looking in the mirror!)
Filming yourself isn’t a big deal. Everybody has a phone with a camera that can make decent recordings. Just ask someone at the gym to film you once every month or so. If there’s nobody to ask just put your phone against a wall or something that will hold it for you.
No need to over complicate this step. You are trying to lift weights safely. You aren’t trying to win an Oscar with your breathtaking camera skills.

That’s all for part 2. In part 3 we will go over the most common mistakes that lead to injury while lifting weights.

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