When I started my fitness journey years ago, I was surely a mess. A runner since my teen years, I had a need for speed and strenuous activity. Like a lot of people, I assumed that success depended on three things: the number of reps I did, the pace I kept and the amount I exerted myself. Like a lot of people, I was wrong.
In 2008, I discovered Pilates. Considering my years of exercise experience, I thought I was strong and balanced. Imagine my surprise, lean and muscular, to be the most pathetic example in my class – by far. Since then, I have practiced Pilates on a regular basis, realizing that I still have many weaknesses. While I was active for years, I hadn’t been fine tuning my movements, so I had imbalances and even injuries as a result. I should mention that I started Pilates to correct chronic low-back pain that was a result of poor form during exercises like squats, running, weight lifting and yoga.
So, whether you’re a fitness buff or a newbie, maybe it’s time to re-examine your exercise practices. I’ve asked expert Brittany Coughlan of Fine Tune Pilates to share some advice on how to achieve results in your workout while being kind to your body as a whole:
Q) What’s your #1 concern when you spot someone exercising with poor form?
A. What many people don’t realize is that even if an exercise doesn’t necessarily “hurt” at the time, they may be learning a bad habit by being neglectful of their form. That repetitive movement that they have been doing incorrectly for years can cause big problems down the road! People don’t like to hear that though, because it’s easier to just go through the motions and it’s much more tedious to focus on form. I always think of it as the “pay now, or pay a lot more later” analogy
Q) Will poor form limit someone’s workout results?
A. Poor form can limit one’s results in certain ways. For instance, if a big, strong bodybuilder does only exercises for their six pack muscles of the core they will look great, but those muscles may not be very functional. Their balance may be terrible, and their posture a mess but they will have washboard abs!
Q) What’s the most common exercise that people perform incorrectly? Is it dangerous?
A. Hmm it’s a toss-up between leg lifts and squats. Both exercises can be really harmful if done wrong, especially over time. The leg lift I would say 90% of the time I see people seriously jarring their back muscles, rolling their shoulders forward, and not supporting enough through their core, which can seriously affect your posture and can cause tightness in your back.
Q) Share your top tip for proper technique/posture while working out.
A. Think about your core before doing any exercise, movement, or doing anything for that matter! If you’re doing ab work at the gym, start at a really basic level for the first few exercises and challenge yourself to only use your core muscles, and then build up to your more advanced ab work. This way you really tap into your deep core muscles, and isolate your abs most likely you’ll feel it more, and get better overall results.
(For more on proper form while isolating your core, watch Brittany’s video: )
Q) What changes/results can someone expect when they “fine tune” their movements?
A. You will see results really quickly! Tiny muscles that you didn’t even know you had will start to be more defined, the intercostal muscles between the ribs, obliques, or secondary muscles on the outer hips may start to be more prevalent. When even small muscles become defined, this gives us the overall appearance of a fit, toned body.
Q) How does Pilates aid in understanding how to fine tune our bodies and movements?
A. I always say that Pilates is the anal retentive workout. It’s tedious, hard work at times, and most of all it strengthens the connection between your mind and body. Pilates forces you to think about each movement and how the body works for optimal mobility, posture, balance, flexibility, and core strength. It’s a lifelong process, in which you practice movements to teach your body how to move with ease.
Brittany is a lifestyle expert and certified Pilates instructor working all over the Toronto area. Check out her blog for excellent tips of fine tuning your movements:
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