The Myth of Perfect Form

“Perfect” exercise technique is a much more nebulous than one would think. While it is widely believed that there is only one true universal way to perform an exercise correctly, this is a misnomer. In fact, the answer to the question, “What is perfect form?” is the super unsexy, annoying answer, “It depends”

One of the many things lacking in the fitness industry is context. I dare you to type in “worst exercise” on Google.

You will be faced with an infuriating barrage of contradictory information. I would bet money that I can find an article demonizing literally every single awesome exercise. Making statements claiming to always or never do something is a recipe for bullshit.

While it is unlikely I will ever have a client deliberately deadlift with a rounded back, that doesn’t mean there aren’t situations where heavy round back deadlifting is advantageous and even relatively safe. This brings us to the title of this post. The execution of a lift depends not only on anatomy, skeletal structure, mobility restrictions, etc. but also on WHY we are doing the exercise. All my clients deadlift and squat, but how they perform the lifts differs depending on what we are trying to achieve by performing said exercise.

The big lifts(squats, deadlifts, bench press, military press, pullups etc.) and their variations can be used for practically any fitness goal. This is why they are the Big Lifts, they are versatile and some variation of them should be used in your program regardless of goal.

Now, all of my clients perform some variation of:

Push-push ups, bench press, military press, incline press

Pull- rows, pull ups, lat pulldowns

Squat- back squat, front squat, lunge, zercher squat, overhead squat

Hinge-deadlift, sumo deadlift, pull through, hip thrust, kettlebell swing

Carry-farmer walk, suitcase carry, overhead carry, zercher carry, sandbag bearhug carry etc etc

The variation we choose at any given time is largely dependent on how experienced the individual is and what progression fits their abilities best. Obviously I can’t do this part for you in this article, but I will say that you can figure this out by experimenting. Play around with different variations using a light/moderate weight, and feel it out. Remember, if it hurts, don’t do it. Respect your limits, but try to expand them.

When experimenting, here are some things to consider:

Am I getting closer to my goals?

Am I able to do this consistently?

How do my joints feel?

Something is better than nothing, and ultimately squatting heavy in any safe fashion will be useful no matter what your goals are.

All of this is to say is that there are many different ways to perform an exercise, and what is optimal really depends on the context and reasoning behind why an exercise is being performed. Even within the realm of “optimal” many different things work. The point of this post is to get you to stop overthinking lifting and accept that there is no single correct way to do things. Just because something is different, doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Stick with the basics and you’ll be fine. As you progress you’ll learn what works best for you as well as develop the ability to discern useful from useless information. In the meantime, stay consistent and don’t over analyze your workouts.

bruce lee


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