The Importance of Proper Form When Exercising

The Importance of Proper Form When Exercising:


Why Proper Form is so Important:


Why do we exercise? So we can have a healthier, longer life and look good while we are doing it. And proper form is the most important part of exercising. What is the use of putting in so much time and effort if you are not doing it right? Right?


What “Bad Form” Looks Like to Me:


When I walk around the floor teaching I see all sorts of bad form. I see ones with their necks perched forward, ones with rounded shoulders and hunched over backs as if they had no muscles to hold themselves up.


Others are looking down instead of up and out at the world around them, as if they were 40 years older. And I cringe, I feel sad as I am yelling to them in my head, “Stand up, pull your shoulders back, get your eyes off of the ground, where is your awareness, pull your abdominal muscles in!” I imagine myself running over to them and manually fixing their posture and them shooing me away saying, “GET OFF OF ME YOU CRAZY LADY!” But I have learned you can’t fix everyone and to calm down. The best way to teach is by example. So I always stand as tall as I can, making my body use its muscles that I love so much, trying to be aware of how I appear. Practice what I teach.


Finding Awareness


When we workout, however our form is, it is basically how our body will build. If you are doing an upper body workout hunched over, you are telling your muscles this is how I want you to get strong. And in turn they will comply. The problem is that people don’t really consider that when one muscle or group of muscles is being used improperly or not used at all and the entire body experiences a domino effect of muscle substitution. Not only does poor posture and lack of good form affect your muscles, but over a long period of time it can also change the alignment of bones, cause chronic pain, pinched nerves and injury on many levels. If you are not focusing on what you are doing and teaching your body how to hold itself up properly, more than likely your body is half of the potential it could really be.


Knowledge is Power


Here are the names of 3 great Books to go out and get:

  1. Yoga Anatomy by Leslie Kaminoff: Beautifully done, loads of information, if you practice yoga and don’t have this book, run, don’t walk to get it.
  1. Pilates Anatomy by Rael Isacowitz/Karen Clippinger: Also beautifully done, in depth view of muscles and their function during the exercise.
  1. Strength Training Anatomy by Frederic Delavier: If you are a gym rat, it shows almost every exercise you will find in the gym and proper muscles that should be used. It is also one of the bestselling Strength Training anatomy books out there.


Like I said, if you are taking the time to exercise, then take the extra step to educate yourself a little more on your muscles and proper form. In the long run you will be happy that you did.


Here are 3 Total Gym exercises commonly done with bad form…


Pull ups: Level of glideboard should always be where you are not straining to pull up:

  • Lie on glide board facing the tower on your tummy
  • Place your hands on the wing accessory for pull ups
  • Pull your shoulders down and lengthen your neck
  • Pull your abdominals in
  • Engage your inner thighs and glutes
  • Imagine your feet reaching away from the crown of your head
  • When your entire body is engaged and your form is right, then you start your pull ups


Tips: Pull ups are commonly done wrong because people only think to use their arms, and then recruit their trapezius muscles to do all the work. What is usually not used are the upper back muscles, abdominals, legs, glutes, basically the rest of your body. You should not feel these in your neck, if you do, your form is wrong.


Lower Leg Lifts: Level of glideboard should be where you can do the exercise properly

  • Lie on your back with your head at the top of the glide board
  • Place your hands behind your head and curl up or stay down with hands along your sides
  • Lift your legs and extend them up towards the ceiling engaging your inner thighs and glutes
  • Make sure you are in a neutral spine (tailbone on the glideboard and a small space between your lower back and the glideboard)
  • Maintain your neutral spine, inhale and lower your legs to desired level without moving your pelvis
  • Exhale and lift legs back to beginning position


Tips: I know this seems easy enough, but most people don’t target their lower abdominal muscles as much as they should. If you maintain a neutral spine and allow the head of your femur bone to move freely in the hip socket while not allowing your pelvis to rock, then you will be on your way to doing this move correctly. By moving your pelvis while you lower and lift your legs, you are over-using your lower back muscles, hip flexors and quadriceps.


Yoga Pushups: Level of the glideboard is the same as the others. If you are struggling to keep form then it is wrong.

  • Standing at the base of your glideboard facing the tower bend or roll down and walk your hands until they are almost at the top of the glide board
  • Place your arms shoulder width distance, lower your body into a plank position with your legs hip width apart
  • As you press the board away from you spread your back muscles, draw your shoulders down and lengthen your neck
  • Knit or tuck your lower ribs in and pull your abdominals in and up
  • With strong legs and glutes, reach your heels away from the crown of your head
  • On an inhale bend your elbows so that your arms are along the sides of your body and in a 90 degree table top
  • Make sure your shoulders are down and not hiked up in your neck
  • Exhale, straighten your arms back to start position


Tips: When doing this pushup, your form should stay the same from start to finish, watch that you don’t let your neck hang forward or your shoulders to shrug or your lower back to sway. Remember, the opposition of your elbows bending and your body going down is your abdominals pulling up towards your spine. Do you look like a strong plank of wood or a bent up broken plank of wood?


And on that note…

I hope that you become more aware of yourself, because when you do you become more aware of others. Then your whole world opens up. Until next time…

Melissa Muñiz

Melissa L. Muniz is a certified Pilates Instructor, Dance teacher, Choreographer, Actor, Model and full time Mom! She has spent over a decade traveling the world studying traditional dance such as Flamenco in Spain and cultural dance in Indonesia to name but a few. She has toured with Nickelodeon as a dance performer and actor and starred in several music videos and movies. Melissa had the opportunity to train teachers for the opening of the first Pilates Studio in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and has been working with Total Gym as a Gravity Master Trainer since 2002. She has loved the inspiration and support that Total Gym gives and lives by. Melissa now resides with her family in Atlanta GA, teaching at a Wellness Center where she infuses life, happiness and understanding of the body, to those with an open heart and mind.

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