During my first experiences working out, whether it was a training class in college or at the gym with friends, I would always hear:
Keep your back straight.
Keep your core tight.
Make sure your knees don’t go past your ankles.
If you go to the gym, you’ve probably heard all this too. As tempting as it is to bump up the volume to your music and block everyone out, it’s actually really important to ask yourself why everyone talks about maintaining proper form. I’m absolutely no expert, nor am I claiming to be, but remembering these tips are important, especially if you’re just starting your fitness journey. After all, being sore the next day is enough pain, don’t you think?
So what exactly does proper form mean? According to Jeremy Likness at bodybuilding.com, whether you’re lifting weights at the gym or doing fun body weight workouts at home, there are a two things you should always remember.
This is where the phrase, “keep your back straight” stems from. Your spine is what allows your body to remain upright, but it is also prone to injury. Because of this, generally, your back should be kept straight by pushing your chest out and your shoulders back. Remember when your grandmother would tell you not to slouch and would pull your shoulders back so you feel your shoulder blades squeeze together? That’s how it should feel. Oh yeah, grandma knew all about proper form.
According to Likness, keeping your back straight “minimizes stress on the spinal column, but will place tension on your lower back muscles.” This is okay, because those are the muscles you want to work and strengthen to protect your back.
Just like your spine, your joints should be aligned as well. In other words. you don’t want to look like a flailing chicken with arms or legs bent in different directions! For example, think about physical education in high school. Do you recall your P.E. teacher telling you how to do a push-up? Other than keeping your back straight, your arms should be straight. This means your shoulders should be aligned with your wrist. When you do a push up, stop at about a 90-degree angle while keeping your elbows close to your body. Keeping joints aligned, strong and being aware of your body movements can avoid injuries such as popping a bone out of place or fracturing your wrist.