It is easy to get caught up in the amount of weight you lift or the number of repetitions that you do; but something that is often forgotten about is form, and form is important. In comparison to cardio exercises, muscle building/training needs all of your focus to be on your form. Weight training has many health benefits to offer on top of physical aesthetics that it may also bring. However, if it is not done properly, you decrease the benefits that it has to offer and it also puts you at a more increased risk of serious injury.
In a gym setting, it is easy to get distracted from proper form due to the natural competitive nature of humans. If you are working out beside someone curling thirty pound dumbbells, it is motivation for you to pick up the twenty pound dumbbells instead of the ten that you are used to doing; but this is not always the best idea. When doing a curl, the goal is to isolate the bicep, with your secondary muscle target being the tricep. This gives a “push and pull” motion to correctly stimulate the muscle groups that the exercise is designed to target. However, if the weight you are lifting is too heavy and you lose track of your form and only focus on getting your planned number of repetitions in, it defeats the purpose of stimulating the right muscle groups. As a result, you still start using other muscle groups to compensate in order to lift a more heavy weight and this could lead to serious injury in muscles, joints, tendons, and/or ligaments.
To avoid such injury, you should focus on lowering your weight in order to achieve your planned number of repetitions, assuring that you are solely focusing on that bicep muscle extending and releasing in proper form. When exercises are done with correct form, lighter weight often becomes harder to lift because it is depending on the target muscle alone. This results in healthy muscle growth and does not pose a risk to injury.
When repetitions start to become more difficult and you feel the pressure of the exercise moving to different places than the target muscle group, there is one of two things that you can do.
- Pause and let the target muscle group rest and relax. Once you have taken a short break, finish the remainder of the repetitions with the same weight that you started with. If more than one break is needed to let your muscles relax before you finish the set, that is perfectly okay.
- Lower your weight. If you started bicep curls with twenty pound dumbbells and you start to feel that you are using your back muscles to hoist the weight up to compensate, put the twenty pound dumbbells down and switch to fifteen pound dumbbells. If you still feel like you are compensating with other muscle groups, continue to decrease the weight until you can finish all rounds with correct form.
Next time you decide to do a weight based training workout, remember to focus on what is actually happening from within. Focus on your muscles actually contracting, tightening, and relaxing through each motion so that you reap the health benefits available to weight training and decrease the risk of injury that is also available. The amount of weight you lift and the number of times you do a specific exercise does not mean anything until you are doing each move with correct form. Stay form focused!