The Importance of Safety and Proper Form
August 10, 2014
Hi Passion Fit Crew! Hope you all are enjoying the weekend and final weeks of summer. I wanted to focus today’s blog post on the importance of safety and form when working out.
There are many fitness trends out there that stress working out at an incredibly fast pace, using the heaviest weights possible and going at an all-out intensity level that could potentially be dangerous. While I definitely want to encourage you all to work out hard and give it your all to get the maximum benefit for your efforts, I also want to encourage you to work out in a smart, safe and effective way that prevents injury. Below are some of my thoughts within the following key areas:
Speed and Intensity:
While many workouts involve speed and intensity such as sprints, high intensity interval training or boot camp classes, it’s important to understand how fast YOUR body can move. People come in all different shapes and sizes and what might be considered a fast and intense pace for one person, may not be for the next person or vice versa. Since I’m a very small and petite person, my movements can sometimes be too fast for a person who’s taller and has longer limbs than I do. Therefore, I constantly have to think about this when I’m designing workouts and choreographing routines for my classes and it’s an ongoing effort to take multiple shapes and sizes into consideration.
That said, the key is to fully warm up and then be able to move at a pace that allows you to get in a full range of motion without compromise. What does that mean exactly? It means you are able to complete the move with a full rotation, flexion or extension of your arm, leg or other part of your body – i.e. a full bicep curl, tricep dip, squat, lunge, push-up, jack, etc. without having to cut the movement short in order to move at a certain speed or intensity level. There are 2 benefits to doing this:
1. You’ll achieve better results because you’ll be working out your muscles the proper way, which maximizes the benefit of the exercise
2. You’ll prevent yourself from getting injured by pulling a muscle, tearing a ligament, etc.
From a cardiovascular standpoint, you also want to make sure you’re moving at a pace that gets your heart rate up and gets you to burn the most calories, but still allows you to be safe and not overexert yourself to the point of needing to stop or needing to receive medical attention. The Borg Scale of Perceived Exertion has been around for years and is a subjective, yet effective way for individuals to rate themselves on a scale of 6-20 (6 being no exertion to 20 being the maximum exertion). It’s important to check in with yourself because only you know how you’re feeling during the exercise and if it’s too much for your body to handle or not. It’s a challenging balance for sure on determining if you should keep pushing forward in the name of really giving it your all or knowing when to pull back in the name of protecting yourself from getting hurt. Fitness instructors and personal trainers are certainly there to help guide you, but again, you know your body better than anyone, so use your own best judgement and also seek the help of a fitness professional if you need to. Also, be sure to fully cool down after a highly intense workout so you can bring your heart rate down gradually and not suddenly.
Form goes hand in hand with the concept of getting in a full range of motion. I’m constantly discussing form with the students in my classes and often give them the following reminders:
1. Be sure to tuck in your core when exercising in order to protect your lower back and provide balance
2. Make sure your knees don’t come over your toes when lunging or squatting
3. Keep a flat back and a neutral spine when doing planks and push-ups
4. Remember not to lock your elbows or knees when doing many exercises and keep them soft
5. When doing kickboxing moves, remember to kick from your hips rather than snapping your knee caps
6. Keep your shoulders away from your ears in order to keep them relaxed and not in a tense position
7. When pivoting from side to side, make sure to fully rotate your body and turn your knees in the same direction your body is moving to avoid knee injuries
8. When doing any moves with power knees, be sure to tuck in your core and use your core muscles to bring your knees into your chest rather than using the momentum of your arms and legs or hurting your back
9. When stretching, stretch to the point of discomfort but NOT pain as you don’t want to pull muscles unnecessarily
10. When doing core exercises on a mat, protect your neck by tucking your chin into your chest and putting your hands behind your head where appropriate
11. Make the distinctions of keeping your feet shoulder width apart or feet together, toes and knees facing forward or facing out, feet flexed or pointed, etc. because each exercise may call for something different (your instructor will usually point these things out to you when taking a class)
12. Be intentional with every movement and placement of our arms, legs, hands and feet as it will help you with maximizing the movements in the workouts and in having proper form
13. When using weights, choose a weight that is challenging for you (but not at the expense of your back) yet comfortable enough to allow you to get in that full range of motion
Well, that’s it for today my friends. I merely scratched the surface here and will write more on this topic in future blog posts, however, I hope this was helpful. Remember to be safe and watch your form!
Works Cited: Borg. G.A. Psychophysical bases of perceived exertion. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 198; 14:377-381. “The Borg Scale of Perceived Exertion.” Harvard School of Public Health. The Nutrition Source. <https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/borg-scale/>.