We all don’t have the exact same anatomy so to expect everyone to execute an exercise in the exact same way and to expect that it will feel the same is rather narrow-minded.
There’s such a thing as great and not-so-great form, yes. However, this does not imply that there is a single ideal form into which you must jam your body or endure suffering. The best exercise form is always going to be the one that works with your body, not against it.
Let’s see how to work with your body achieving your goals with as much safety and fun as possible.
There’s a reason trainers emphasize form: It help keeps you safe and injury-free. And while following proper form is crucial, when you do exercises without tailoring them to your body, you can experience injury down the line.
For instance, imagine a very tall person trying to do a barbell deadlift. To reach the barbell, this person has to really bend down a lot with each rep, which can put extra stress on the body, especially the lower back. Over time, this can cause pain or injury.
But that doesn’t mean tall people can’t enjoy the many benefits deadlifts have to offer — a little modification may do the trick. Taking a wider, sumo stance or using a trap bar can help them deadlift with a more upright torso.
No one loves doing exercises that feel painful, awkward or discouraging. But when you adjust an exercise to suit your body shape and size, you can start to feel more confident. In the long run, this can help increase your consistency with training, according to certified strength and conditioning specialist Patrick Jennings, CSCS.
“We want to increase confidence and competence, increasing consistency,” he says. Find exercise modifications and variations that make your workout feel like fun, or even play.
Forcing yourself to do exercises (or variations) that aren’t right for your body can slow your progress. And it can be hard to stay motivated and encouraged when you don’t see your hard work paying off.
After all, if you force your body into an exercise that you can’t do with good form, you’re probably not going to get all of strength-building benefits the move has to offer. You may even start to feel aches and pains.
Put simply, we stick with things that are fun, and consistency leads to progress.
Also known as anthropometrics, your body’s shape, size and proportions affect how your body moves.
For example, during squatting-based exercises, people with long legs may feel more comfortable doing single-leg exercises like Bulgarian split squats.
People with heavy weights may find body-weight exercises, like push-ups, chin-ups or planks extra challenging. Modification is the key. Swap planks with a dead bug, opt for a lat pull-down instead of a chin-up, and try a dumbbell press instead of a push-up.
If it hurts, don’t do it! Exercise should make your body feel better, not worse (apart from a little post-workout muscle soreness you might feel). Injuries don’t necessarily take exercises off the table, but are important to consider as you pick and choose different variations in your workout.
You need to tweak exercises depending on the nature of your past (or current) injury. For instance, someone with an old shoulder injury may feel more comfortable doing their overhead presses at an angle, rather than straight overhead.
Those with previous knee injuries may feel discomfort with a deep squat. But doing a squat onto a box or chair can help control the depth, keeping your knees happier.
What’s always a good idea: consulting your doctor or physical therapist before you add any new moves into your workout routine.
If you can do a squat well and it helps you meet your goals, that’s great. But if you can’t do a squat variation, maybe it’s just not one that has to be in your leg-day schedule. Sub it out for a different squat variation.
Pick exercises that help you meet your goals but are still enjoyable to you.
Exercises are categorized by the type of motion you’re doing, as listed below. Your weekly strength-training routine should involve exercises within each of these categories to ensure you’re hitting all of the muscles across your body.
With that in mind, you can modify or swap exercises within these categories to better suit your body. Although one move in a certain category may not feel too great, there may be another that’s more comfortable but still gets the job done.
To select the best exercise variation or tweak for you, the first step is to try out tons of exercise variations and listen to your body. Then, you can play the “if… then” game to narrow down on the best exercise variations and modifications for you.
Hip hinge exercises mainly use your glutes and hamstrings to bend then straighten your hips. Deadlift variations make up a lot of the hip hinge exercises out there. So, if the traditional deadlift doesn’t feel comfortable, there’s no shortage of alternatives.
Squats train your quads and glutes but also help strengthen your core muscles. They’re all about bending at the hips and knees. And, as with deadlifts, there are plenty of squat variations that you can try.
These are your overhead pressing exercises (like the shoulder press), which primarily target your shoulder muscles.
Horizontal push moves, like push-ups and chest presses, involve pushing away from your body against resistance. These mainly target your chest muscles.
Whereas shoulder presses involve pushing overhead, vertical pull moves (like chin-ups) pulling from over your head toward your body against resistance. These target your back.
Horizontal pull moves, like rows, involve pulling a weight towards your body. These mainly train your back muscles.
Carry exercises involve walking while carrying a type of weight. The most popular variation is a farmer’s walk and these exercises generally strengthen your entire body, including your core.