Recently, I’ve been considering writing a post titled something like, “too strong for my own good,” in which I’d write about how, for some exercises, I’m just too strong to keep doing them.
For example, under Rachel Cosgrove’s plan, one of my workouts involves three sets of planks. One of the main principles behind her plan is that every workout, you’re supposed to increase the weight/intensity of what you do – which with planks means going longer and longer. However, I’m now up to 2 minutes per set (three sets total), which means I’m planking for 6 minutes. Today, I was running really late and just didn’t have time – so I did 2:00, then 1:00, then 1:00. Still a bit of a workout, but I felt guilty that I didn’t push myself to the max like I usually try to do. But even when I do three sets of 2 minutes, that is a long time to just be lying there. Call me an ADD-ridden product of my generation, but I get bored doing that. I’ve found that if I line up my phone just right, I can check my email while I plank… but at some point, enough is enough. I like a quick, intense workout, so I can’t very well start reading books when I get up to 5 minutes per set (hopefully)!
Another exercise that I struggle with is the single leg bent knee deadlift. I’m up to using 50 pound weights for this one, because my legs are darn strong. Unfortunately, my arms just aren’t quite up to the challenge… particularly when I’ve already punished them with 20 pound alternating overhead presses and 30 pound dumbbell rows. While my legs aren’t yet shaking and sore from the weight, my arms/hands can’t hold the dumbbells anymore (even though all they’re doing is hanging there). Today, since I was at my gym in NYC instead of a tiny hotel gym, I experimented with using barbells for my deadlifts and that helped a lot (compared to dumbbells – somehow it distributed the weight so it was easier to hold), but it still wasn’t great. By my last few sets, my arms were more exhausted than my legs, and I was unhappy that I felt like I hadn’t really given my legs a complete workout.
But this morning, while doing my dumbbell rows, I got my comeuppance, and decided that my original post should most definitely not be written… or at least not with that title. A trainer had been in the weight room with two women while I was doing my workout, and after watching me do my rows, he came over to me for a quick minute, warned me that the way I was doing them might hurt my back, and told me I should put one leg behind me to brace myself. While I was mortified, I thanked him for the help and switched to doing it his way. I was almost disappointed to realize it was my last set – now it would look like I was skulking out of the weight room after he was nice enough to correct my form, when that wasn’t the case at all. I briefly considered doing a set of something else to “prove” that I wasn’t embarrassed, but I was running short on time (good thing, because I was being silly – there was nothing to prove).
Later today, I looked at Rachel’s book, and I wasn’t doing them exactly the way she had demonstrated… but she wasn’t using the approach of one leg behind the other (lunge position) either, so I wasn’t that far off base. Still – the difference between a flat and rounded back when performing a rep can definitely change whether you get injured or not. In this case, I wasn’t “cheating” and making the exercise easier in order to lift more weight, but my form had definitely changed from the form I used to use way back when I was using 5 pound dumbbells instead of 30 pounders.
Now I’m a bit worried. Without a personal trainer to monitor me, who knows what else I’m doing wrong? At some point this weekend, I want to sit down with the book and a full-length mirror and go through each of the exercises slowly, without weights, comparing my form to the demonstration in the book. I know it’s not quite as good as a personal trainer… but it’s a start.
What do you do to make sure you’re using proper form in your weight training routine?