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View Full Version : What is proper form?


Neal Winkler
07-20-2007, 02:41 PM
How does one determine what constitutes proper form for an exercise?

I imagine it's something like biomechanical efficiency and minimizing insult to tissues, but I'm wondering if when two people disagree about form, are they just disagreeing with those two things (or some other addition whatever it may be) or are do they disagree about the fundamental priniciple of what it means to be proper?

Chris Forbis
07-20-2007, 04:32 PM
This sounds like a question one would hear in philosophy class.

Here's my amateur response. It is here to be ripped to shreds by those following.

1. Accomplishing the defined ROM of the lift in as efficient manner as possible.
2. Doing so with minimal risk of injury.

Neal Winkler
07-20-2007, 04:46 PM
This sounds like a question one would hear in philosophy class.

Hey, you can't have a forum for exercise technique without knowing what it means for technique to be proper, can you? :) Plus I don't think this question will be as difficult to solve as other philosophy questions.

Now that I think about it more, I think we need to add 3) Work the desired muscle groups according to 4) the intended force/velocity relationship.

I'm glad you added "defined range of motion" into your definition, because I was expecting someone to say that the exercise has to go through a full range of motion. That obviously can't be right because there reasons for dong partials.

Allen Yeh
07-23-2007, 07:42 AM
Neal, for some reason or another I found myself thinking about this question over the weekend here's a few thoughts to further muddy the waters.

1. Proper form in what context? For general health? Bodybuilding? Powerlifting? Olympic weightlifting? For sport?

While almost every one of those have some similiarities, doing something slightly different will be more beneficial for people focused on each. In bodybuilding especially partial reps will elicit more hypertrophy than doing "proper form" would. That's better for the bodybuilder because that's his goal and what he needs contest day.

What I said above though doesn't make sense because if you were observing someone working out, without any obvious cues how would you know what context a person is working out for as opposed to doing the movement wrong and harming themselves?

A good example I found recently is the kb/db swing.

1. Hard style - emphasis on hip snap
2. GS style - emphasis on energy conservation but completing the movement
3. "bodybuilding" style - emphasis less on both of the above but using momentum to do a very heavy front shoulder raise.

Out of the 3 it seems that the 3rd seems to be the one with the most possibility of being "bad" but the guy who advocated that style (Christian Thibedeau) isn't exactly an idiot either.

Yael Grauer
07-23-2007, 09:01 AM
In addition to doing the movement wrong and hurting yourself, there's also the whole doing it wrong so it's quicker and easier thing. If you do say 500 Thai kicks it certainly is tempting. Or partial squats when you started out doing full squats--it probably won't hurt you too much to do 20 partial air squats at the end of a set, but it's still not the form you started with and set out to do...

Robb Wolf
07-23-2007, 03:12 PM
I was not going to touch this one...seems like a perfect question for Barry Cooper....but he said he'd never post here, so considering the above smarty-pants contributions...I'd say the form the provides the greatest benefit based on ones intended goals.

Greg Everett
07-26-2007, 09:06 AM
yeah everyone's pretty much said it in one way or another. "proper" is entirely contextual. So what form we want will be determined by the circumstances, including the athlete's abilities and limitations, the desired training effect, the equipment available, etc.

So to answer you final question, usually people disagree about form because they're 1) stupid, 2) ignorant of the circumstances, and/or 3) stupid.

The squat is a perfect example. There's a new Oly vs. Rip squat debate on the CF forum about every 3 minutes. But everyone involved is using the squat to achieve different things, so the arguments made tend to be entirely useless.