Sunday, January 5, 2014


I am ready to slaughter the sacred cow on this one, because I’m honestly just getting sick of this.  Go onto any lifting forum on any website, and I guarantee you that within the first 2 pages of posts, you’re going to find a form check thread, and that’s on a slow board.  On a highly trafficked one, you’re going to see many of the threads on the first page are dedicated to form checks.  Videos will take one of two possible directions, the first being some kid who clearly has no basic understanding of how to lift in the first place and should be spending more time working on GPP than hitting the iron, and the second being someone freaking out about the most minor of details in their form.

This is time that could be spent doing chin ups...or dragging a sled...or going for a run...or doing taxes, or just anything

For the former, my advice is to start over.  Build some coordination and strength and start working some basic motor patterns.  This stuff isn’t complicated, it just requires some athleticism.  To the latter, I say stop checking your form and start lifting.  Form is never going to be perfect, and if it is, you’re lifting too light.  Any activity that is building strength is going to require you to venture out of your comfort zone, and this means experiencing minor form deviations.  If you spend all of your time worrying about these deviations and refusing to add weight until everything is 100% perfect, you will never get big or strong.

This need for absolute perfection in form stems from the crippling fear of injury that exists in a population that is undertrained and overstressed.  These people do not understand the reality that this is a lifelong pursuit, and that no one is going to make it out of this alive.  Everyone is going to get hurt at one point, and it’s your ability to come back from it that makes you a champion.  You’re never going to have form that is so perfect that you are injury free, and if you do, it will have come at the cost of actually lifting heavy enough weights to have an impact on your physique and strength.

Pictured with: torn left calf, torn right quadriceps, torn left pec, torn left lat, separated right acromioclavicular joint, two detached biceps tendons, torn his right and left tricep and numerous back injuries

There is always some resident “form expert” on each forum as well, dedicated to pointing out how someone’s left big toe is out of alignment with their right earlobe, reducing maximal power output by at least 17%.  These guys never look impressive, nor do they lift impressive amounts.  The time that they invested in becoming the greatest expert on youtube in diagnosing lifting dysfunction came at the cost of moving heavy iron and experiencing agony.  There is no prize in having the greatest internet form, and your accomplishments will be invisible to anyone who meets you.

When it comes to the helpfulness of strangers, whether they be on the internet or otherwise, understand that you are simply hearing the physical and verbal manifestation of cognitive dissonance and defense mechanisms.  No one “corrects” your form because they want you to succeed and be a better and stronger trainee.  They do this because it is how THEY train, and they do not want to witness someone succeeding employing a method that is different from their own, for the ramification of this reality is that THEY may be wrong.  Rather than change their perspective and admit to their own fallibility, it is much easier to attempt to change everyone else to their own paradigm.  When receiving the wisdom of strangers, measure their success before you give weight to their words.

Let us not confuse form with technique, and many are want to do.  The idea exists in the mind of the uneducated that somehow, when all the mechanical aspects of the lift come into alignment, one will be able to affect all the desired muscles and reach the intended outcome of a lift.  Bull, if you aren’t making the muscles work, you aren’t working the muscles.  I can curl a barbell from my waist up to my shoulders with a straight back and totally end up neglecting my biceps through the process, and conversely I can “cheat” and only curl the bar halfway while absolutely destroying my arms.  In many cases, “perfect” form dictates imperfect results, as it’s not simply about what the body looks like while it moves and object, but how it moves to create that image.

On this topic, let us understand that “textbook form” is a farce.  There is no possibility for there to be a universal “good form”, because such a notion presupposes a specific goal on every trainee on the planet.  It operates under the notion that every trainee that puts a bar on their back and squats does so for the same reason.  Is it not the case that powerlifters, strongmen, weightlifters, crosssfitters and bodybuilders squat, and that each one is going to squat differently than the other in most cases?  How about differently constructed trainees?  What of the powerlifter who is squatting to develop stronger quads versus the one who squats for a stronger posterior chain?  Do they employ the same form simply by nature of the fact that the lift is named “squat”?  Form will always be dependent on goal and individual, and as such the notion of a universal “good form” is laughable.

And when is the last time you associated  the word "textbook" with "strength"?

 Additionally, have some faith in yourself and your body.  It is rarely the case that you perform a movement 100,000 times with no pain and one day your spine shoots out through your anus because you had “bad form” the whole time.  Warning signs can show themselves, and it is up to you to interpret them and adjust as needed.  On the other side, if you are constantly in pain while training, and everyone tells you that you have “good form”, stop listening to insanity and start saving yourself.

It ultimately will always come down to the end result.  Are you meeting your goals with your method?  If yes, then the form check is meaningless, as clearly your form is working, regardless of how it appears.  If no, try some honesty before you seek the aid of others.  Can you honestly not see something wrong with your form before you ask outside sources?  With the wild availability of information provided by the internet and others, are you still lost?  How did the pioneers of lifting manage without youtube?  Maybe that is why so many of them managed to get big and strong without worrying about mobility work and long warm-ups, but that is another rant, for another time.  

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