Lifting Technique
Don't Be a Form Nazi!
by James Bullock

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It is very easy to be critical of anything. But just because you can, doesn’t mean that you should. I am, and have been, just as guilty of acts of criticism as anyone else. One thing that many trainers and coaches advocate is performing with perfect lifting technique all the time. I was one of those many coaches a long time ago. However, I have since changed my perspective so I am not such a “form Nazi.”

With any exercise movement there is a margin for error. Some people can get away with certain form deviations for their entire lives without ever getting injured. Others can glance at the weight wrong and need surgery. What I have found over the years is that there are a handful of principles for any particular movement that need to be the same for nearly everyone. I say nearly everyone because you will always come across that extremely rare person that does everything “wrong” by our known standards, but just happens to lift more than everyone else.

Due to the large amount of people I have had the opportunity to train over the years, I have learned how to modify every exercise you can imagine. Each exercise has to work for the person to be of any benefit. If someone can’t go through a full range of motion on a particular lift, then you DON’T make them.

One of my athletes was injured while doing the bench press nearly two years ago and till this very day their range of motion (ROM) is decreased due to that injury. This particular athlete can do a full range bench press with very light weight, but then we must restrict ROM to allow her to go heavier. The basic exercise is still a bench press; it still builds strength and muscle mass. ROM had to be modified to allow the athlete to still do the movement pattern.

Now don’t misunderstand me: I do preach proper lifting technique all the time. However, if something presents itself, and I have no choice but to modify an exercise for the athlete, then I will. If a movement has to modified to the point that it will take away from the intent of the exercise, then that specific lift needs to be tossed and a different movement will be selected. My goal as a coach is to have my athletes train as safely as possible while getting the results they desire.

Train hard and train safe.


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About the Author

James Bullock is the head coach for Irondom Performance Systems and Combative Sciences. He's written programs for athletes and non-athletes alike, including numerous world record holders in various sports. Combative Sciences was found in 1999 and is the culmination of decades of martial arts training. 

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