Technique! What is it? Why is it important? And how does one obtain it?
It is a common misconception that lifting weights proficiently is simply a matter of strength. Because the strength component of lifting is so apparent, the skill component is often overshadowed (it is called STRENGTH training after all).
However, just because someone has enough muscle to deadlift a truck filled with Twilight Dvd’s (the deadlift would be required to throw said truck into the Sarlacc pit from Return of the Jedi)does not mean that they can.
“But, Jeff, surely if someone is strong they can lift heavy weights!?” you might say.
Well, yes and no.
Not to get too semantic (I always was a hopeless semantic), but the answer depends on how we define strength. Here strength is defined as the physiological capacity, or potential, to exert force on an object i.e. lift stuff. The only thing preventing that potential from being realized is the requisite SKILL. Skill here means using proper technique.
What does good technique entail?
Technique means that you complete a movement in a way that places the minimal amount of stress on the body and consequently complements the biomechanics of the human body. Using bad technique is problematic for several reasons.
Not only are proper movement patterns essential for injury prevention, but they will allow an individual to lift and perform at their maximum physiological capacity. For example, let’s say we have two individuals who are EXACTLY the same in every respect except that Lifter A’s hips are too far forward when squatting. Lifter B will have a heavier squat. Lifter B has better technique, thus using physics to his/her advantage and squatting heavier than Lifter A. Consequently Lifter B will also be able to perform more repetitions with a given weight.
The key to proper technique (assuming you have been informed on what an exercise looks and feels like) lies in practice. However, practice in and of itself does not necessarily make perfect.
Your nervous system remembers every move you make. More importantly, repeated movements, whether correct or not, will be subconsciously habitualized. This means you must ALWAYS focus on your movement when performing an exercise. Never go on autopilot and constantly strive to improve technique. This awareness will result in habitualizing proper movement patterns, better technique, and most importantly, you will get more out of your workouts.
Just remember, perfect practice makes perfect.