Form Cop Returns: Chin-ups

Form-CopIt's been a long time since The Form Cop turned up in The Planet. So long, in fact, that he doesn't show up on this site! His return is long overdue, along with some background information on why he remains so important. (At least, he thinks so.)

A reminder from an early appearance of The Form Cop as to why form matters:

  1. Results: When we do an exercise, we should have a reason for doing it. With any kind of resistance exercise the reason is -- directly or indirectly -- to get stronger. Whether you want to "sculpt" or "tone" or "get big" or "whatever," it starts with getting strong: being able to lift more weights or do more reps or progress to a more challenging exercise. But doing an exercise with bad form can change the dynamics of the movement, or make it less effective, or to make it work muscles other than the ones you're targeting. The same kinds of problems arise with bad form in mobility exercises, too. So proper form is important to getting the best results for the exercises you do.
  2. Injury: There are two kinds of injury: chronic and acute. An acute injury happens suddenly, like tearing a muscle or breaking a bone. Chronic injuries happen over time through repetition. While bad form can lead to either type of injury, chronic is more likely as the wear and tear of doing an exercise badly breaks your body down.
  3. Movement Degradation: More insidious than chronic injury is the degradation of movement or posture over time from using bad form. For example, squatting badly can change the way you perform squat patterns in life, such as standing up or sitting down. As you age, this can make getting out of a chair increasingly difficult and sitting down become more of a controlled fall. Other common degradations include shortened stride leading to a shuffling walk, and kyphotic posture with rounded upper back and hunched shoulders. Bad form probably won't cause these conditions but it can fail to prevent them or even contribute to them.

So if bad form is bad, why do people do it?

  1. Lack of Knowledge: Often, people have bad form because they don't know what good form is. They've never learned how to do an exercise properly, or they know how to do it but do it badly because they don't watch themselves or they don't get coaching or they don't have a good feel for how their bodies are moving.
  2. It's Easier: You rarely see someone with bad form that makes an exercise harder. It almost always makes it easier. When dropping into a full squat is uncomfortable, people will settle for a partial squat or rock forward onto their toes rather than work on developing the ability to do a good (for them) squat.
  3. Ego: This one relates to #2 but in this case making it easier means moving more weight or doing more reps. Rather than scaling back to use good form and building on it, people keep doing the same exercise badly to impress...well, they probably aren't really impressing anyone but it's still an ego thing. And while the most obvious cases are guys lifting heavy weights, women certainly aren't immune. (Bad planks, anyone?)

OK, with that introduction out of the way, let's get to the latest installment of The Form Cop!

Note: Due the camera angle, the chin looks higher relative to the bar than it really is. Blame the director. 

Check your form out there, folks. You never know when The Form Cop may be watching!

Be seeing you.


(Thanks to Sensei Hutch for his bad-form chin-ups.)

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