A few years ago, while I was working out at Tim’s Total Fitness in Byron, I noticed a group of guys come in and head towards the squat racks. They removed the bars and placed them in front of the racks as they prepared to do deadlifts.
For those who are unfamiliar, deadlifts are primarily a back and legs exercise in which the lifter squats down, grabs the bar with either an overhand or a ‘switch’ grip, and stands up with the bar until the knees are nearly locked. It is important that the lifter maintain a forward face and a straight back to avoid injury.
Returning back to the gym scene, one guy approached the bar, which had been loaded down with several 45-pound plates. I nervously watched on from my corner of the gym as the guy squatted down and grabbed the bar with a switch grip.
Suddenly, the guy jerked up as he began attempting the lift. I noticed to my shock that the guy’s back was arched similar to that of an angry cat. I was concerned that the guy would severely injure his back as his lifting buddies urged him on. He didn’t do so, thankfully, and he eventually stood up fully with the weight still in hand.
I tell this story to make the point that there is a lot of bad form happening in gyms all around Middle Georgia. We all have noticed people in the gym using bad form, and before you start feeling self-righteous, if you admit it, you’ve been guilty at some point of using bad form, too. I know I have, so I won’t even try to front.
Here’s the really bad part about all of this. Some use bad form because they don’t know proper technique, while others use bad form because of big egos.
Ego is what makes us crank out extra reps just because somebody else is looking, even if those reps look absolutely terrible. Ego is what makes us pick up weights that are beyond our ability to lift because we want someone to think that we lift that heavy.
To top it all off, ego can make us miss the whole point of even going to the gym, which is to maintain and improve our health. When you lie under a bench press bar and prepare to lift more weight than you know you can, chances are that you aren’t thinking much about your health. When you see someone doing sprints and decide to join them because you think you’re faster, even though you haven’t sprinted in 20 years, chances are that your well-being hasn’t crossed your mind.
When you go to the gym this week, I challenge you to fight the ego urge. First of all, focus. Don’t worry about whether anyone is looking at you.
Secondly, make sure that you truly know how to do the exercises in your workout routine. Ask more experienced weightlifters for help, or if you’re totally new to it all, get a personal trainer. Find tutorials online that show you how to perform certain exercises. I have created a few for YouTube myself. EXRX.net is a good resource as well.
Finally, give special attention to each and every repetition you perform. If you’re using a weight that’s too heavy for you to maintain perfect form with, don’t be ashamed to lower the weight. I promise that if you do this, your workouts be awesome, because if you use weights that work for you, you work your muscles more efficiently.
Peach County resident Shawn McClendon is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer and owner of the health/fitness blog YourHealthAtTheCrossroads.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.