Monday, May 20, 2013

The "Perfect Form" Problem

I'm going to start this out by saying that perfect form with an exercise is something that everyone should be striving for. I think it's almost unattainable in some regards, but that doesn't mean we should stop trying, right? When it comes to myself, even, I'm aware that many of my lifts are far from "perfect".

While this may look pretty good to the casual observer (I did make the lift after all) I can see several things wrong with it. Provide this video to a coach like Wil FlemingIvan Rojas or Glenn Pendlay and they would have a litany of problems with it. My goal is to compete and be successful in a weightlifting competition so I continuously work on my technique so that I can be as good as I can be.

Occasionally, though, less-than-perfect form is something that we can deal with, as coaches. Your basic movement patterns like squats, hinges and pushups should all be drilled until they are beautiful. If someone has a mobility restriction it should be addressed and the exercise should be regressed to the correct version. If your athletes can move well through these basic patterns then nothing else they do will be so awful.

If you have a college soccer player who doesn't quite get the full shrug in during her hang power cleans,  the world won't end. She is going to be safe and still reap a lot of benefits from the exercise anyway. She is going to be competing on a soccer field, not a lifting platform so a small deviation isn't going to be detrimental to her performance. If someone else is having a tough time keeping the bar against their body during a hang snatch, it's not that big a deal. It will result in them using a little less weight, but still getting a benefit. Keep on cueing them to do it the right way, but don't stop their lift and take 20 minutes to drill it. All that's going to do is frustrate them and inhibit their performance.

I work mainly with gen-pop clients, and when one of them doesn't quite get to full ankle extension during a medicine ball keg toss, I'm not going to poop my pants about it. That won't make them a better doctor or lawyer.

If there's a big problem with an exercise (i.e. inability to land from a jump, elbows flare really wide on the bench, the super-wide "starfish" catch during a power clean) then those need to be addressed immediately. If it could result in your athlete or client getting hurt, then change it post haste. Do not pass go, do not collect $200: fix it.

Every day and in every way, strive to be better. Work your ass off to achieve perfect form, but don't let it hinder your gains. Remember, to get stronger you're eventually going to have to put some weight on the bar. If your goal is to achieve a perfect medicine ball keg toss, then by all means drill that extension. If the goal is to be happy, healthy and enjoy training maybe it's ok to let it slide a little.

Have a great day and go lift some heavy shit!

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