"When one has reached maturity in the art, one will have a formless form. It is like ice dissolving in water. When one has no form, one can be all forms; when one has no style, he can fit in with any style." - Bruce Lee

This week I want to talk about form. Most of you know that poor exercise form can lead to injury and muscle imbalances, but it also wastes energy and will stop you from reaching your goals quicker.

To make this a little clearer and more fun we’ll use a beer analogy. Everyone has a friend (or maybe it’s you!) that can down a pint incredibly quick. No drips, just straight down the pipe, finished in a few seconds. Then there’s your friend who THINKS he can do the same (hopefully you’re not that friend!). Unlike your previous friend, this one takes several choke-inducing gulps as beer drips out of the side of their mouth, down their face and on to their shirt. 30 seconds later they’re finished. Okay, they stumbled through it but hey, they did it.

So how does beer guzzling relate to form and energy loss? Your second friend completed the exercise wasting a ton of energy (the beer). It took him 30 seconds to get the same effect as friend number one, and it was sloppy. But he did it. He completed the exercise and feels fulfilled.  However if you were to keep exercising (drinking beer) this way, you’re highly likely to get muscle imbalances, poor posture, leading to a high risk of an overuse injury. Overuse injuries occur as a nature of habit, and are the hardest to correct.

We often mention the formula “Results = Hard Work + Consistency” but maybe we should change that to “smart” work. It’s not just about showing up each time and pounding through your training session without thinking. Take a moment during each exercise to make sure you’re engaging each muscle correctly, and adjusting the exercise as fatigue sets in.

Remember practice does not make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect.

I’ll finish with a good example of what you should be thinking about when exercising. A common move done wrong, especially when people get tired, is The Plank-Up (or Shoulder Push-Up). When done correctly this exercise should blast your abs, and strengthen your shoulders.

The first video shows the correct way to do this exercise. Shoulders over wrists, hips in stay in line with your body, hands replace elbow on the way up with no hip rotation. Everything’s tight, there is no wasted energy, and all the engaged muscles are working at maximum efficiency.

The second video, albeit a little exaggerated, shows all of the common errors. Shoulders not over wrists, hips too high, hands don’t replace elbows on the way up, torso rotates. This may make the exercise seem easier, and you’ll still get tired but there’s no correct muscle engagement, and a ton of energy is wasted.

So if you’re not seeing the results you expect, then take time during the next few work outs to really focus on proper form, especially when you get tired. When you can no longer do an exercise with proper form you should move to the regression. In the plank-up exercise this would be dropping to your knees.

Once you keep the correct muscles engaged, and keep proper alignment, you’ll stop wasting needless energy, and it’s very likely that you’ll begin to see quicker improvements. Remember – perfect practice, makes perfect.


P.S. I used a male in this beer drinking example. If you ever visit Scotland and head out to a pub in a small village you will very likely see many women doing the same thing!

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