Updated: Oct 21, 2021
Why do we exercise? To lose weight. To gain muscles. To get in shape. To improve our health. To improve cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Or because we just enjoy being active.
When it comes to exercising, especially in the beginning, most of us just want to go and get started. We are so excited or impatient to start, so we look at each exercise as a motion that we should just go through.
Exercise is a skill.
If we look at most athletes from any sport, whether basketball or weightlifting, there is one thing in common. There is a skill that must be 100 % perfected. That skill is practiced billion times until it becomes a default pattern.
Sure there is a genetic factor, but trust me, there is no elite athlete that was born, knowing the skill. They all learned through countless practices.
Let’s see quickly how the learning process occurs.
It is divided into 4 stages which are a bit tricky at first but logical enough to make sense.
Unconscious incompetence. You don’t know that you don’t know.
This is the phase where you don’t realize that you don’t know something. For example, I am in the very early stages of learning French. Part of the basics that we learn is the numbers from 1 to 20.
Now, before I started I had no idea how hard it is to memorize them. I was unconsciously incompetent.
As I was introduced to the numbers I quickly realized that it is not easy. I couldn’t count from 1 to 10 at first, without making mistakes and 1 to 20 was far away. I was now aware that I do not know.
This stage is pretty sweet because you feel like you are progressing quite a lot. As I countlessly repeated the numbers from 1 to 20 I slowly began to make fewer mistakes and now I can say that I can count pretty fluently.
But I still have to think about it. I still search for the right word. And it takes energy and focus.
This is the final stage. It is when you are doing something fluently and with such ease that seems like you were born with that skill.
If I continue to practice French and use the numbers, eventually at some point I won’t have to think about the right word. I would be able to use the number fluently.
It is no different from any exercise. We should approach them as a skill and practice them until we perfect the form. It doesn’t matter about the exercise.
Take push up for example.
Yes, you do need strength to push yourself up, however, if you do not do it with the right technique, the process will be slower and you risk injuring yourself.
Why? Because, even though we are slightly different in terms of or structure, biomechanically there are certain rules that apply to all of us.
If you do push-ups with your arms flared up at 90 degrees, you won’t recruit the right types of muscles (the pectorals or chest) and not only progress slower but also strengthen this wrong movement pattern, which may cause issues down the road.
Instead, even if it might feel uncomfortable at first, you should try to practice the CORRECT way of doing push-ups, by setting up your scapula’s and flaring arms at 45 degrees or less so you recruit the right muscles.
It is going to be uncomfortable at first, but, don’t forget that this is the first stage of learning after all. It will get better.
Any exercise should be approached this way. Running, weight lifting, bodyweight exercises, swimming, ping pong if you wish.
If activating the right muscle groups, learning correct movement patterns, and avoiding injuries is not enough, there is a hidden benefit of practicing the technique that might be beneficial for you.
You have much more room for improvement. If you are only focusing on lifting heavier, sooner or later, you will hit a plateau and lose motivation. Go back to the basics. Try to perfect the technique with the current weight you are lifting. Even if it is the smallest detail, like slight pronation of your feet. Believe it or not those small details make the biggest differences most of the time.
It is a better source of motivation.
If you are looking to perfect your squat or deadlift instead of just seeing changes on the mirror or the scale, you will be less likely to make mistakes out of insecurities.
If you see that the scale hasn’t moved for a week, you might end up doing drastic changes to your food intake or hammer yourself with exercises.
However, if you notice that your left knee tends to go inwards when you ascend of the squat, you will modify your training and make sure you eliminate that as a potential issue.
Here are 2 advice that can help you switch and continue. As well as identifying lack of technique and doing the according to changes to the training.
1. Hire a personal trainer.
Those people are dedicated to working with you and guiding you through your journey, more than anyone. The trick is to find the right type for you.
When at the gym, look how those trainers approach a session. Are they teaching the movement and highlighting the importance of technique, or are just making their clients sweat with jumping and running around. There is nothing wrong with the second, but it is just not related to your goals.
2. Film yourself and learn about the technique.
This one will take more time, but it will give you way more understanding and knowledge about yourself. It requires equipment as well. The idea is to take a video of you squatting for instance, from every angle possible, then assess that video and change accordingly. It also implies researching a lot about technique, biomechanics, and anatomy. If you do not have the time and need a person to guide you, you will be way better off with a personal trainer.
So here you have it guys. This is by far the best way to approach exercises and training in general. This is how I managed to switch from, someone who was constantly looking at the mirror and bagging the scale to show fewer numbers, to someone who is putting less weight on the bar, just so the exercise feels perfect.
Each exercise is a skill, go learn it and become fitter than ever.