What is Perfect Form?
Updated: Jan 18
Perfect form doesn’t exist
This can be a controversial topic because it’s common to think there is one perfect form for everyone. Heck, we were even taught that in our personal training certification textbooks. “This is how you squat”. This might be shocking but people aren’t textbooks. People are complex beings with different structure and musculature lengths and mobility.
The optimal form for one person could look drastically different than the next.
So how do the personal trainers at Garage 1880 decide what form is best for you?
Form is a major focus with clients at Garage 1880.
During your movement assessment, a certified personal trainer takes you through several exercises to identify any noticeably over- or under-active muscles. The trainer looks at what areas could be strengthened in order to move more safely and efficiently. The trainer often looks at how the muscles are working with or against the shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles. Once your personal trainer has gathered this information, they develop a personalized training program specific to your body.
Big emphasis on your body because our trainers always meet you where you are in order to build muscle and improve mobility. Optimizing your form will stem from where you’re starting and how we go about your programming.
Side note: this is important for all levels of training. Whether you’ve never stepped foot into a gym before or have 8 years of experience, we are always adapting and working to improve form across the board. Lifting is not the only thing that affects your form. Things like how you sit, stand, sleep, and do other things for long periods of time will impact your form. We’ll deep dive into that topic another day, though.
Optimizing specific exercise forms:
Squats can be tricky because there are many moving parts. Someone’s shoulders, back, core, hips, glutes, quads, ankle mobility, and feet are all trying to work together to create a wanted outcome: a safe, efficient, and strong squat. If a person’s muscles are over- or under-active, their chest may be more upright or parallel to the ground, their knees may drive forward or stay more over their ankles, their hips may sit back further or move directly under them, their stance may be more narrow or wide, etc. These outcomes could also be due to their structure, too (i.e., having longer femurs).
We’ve had clients who perform squats better with their toes straight forward, and we’ve had clients who do better with their toes slightly angled out.
It’s no one-size-fits-all.
Deadlifts are another tedious exercise because of all the muscles involved in pushing the feet into the ground as you pull the weight up. One person may do better in a sumo position vs conventional position. We could go even further by saying both the sumo and conventional positions offer wiggle room to be tailored to the individual, as well.
Various exercises: rows, chest presses, shoulder presses, core exercises, etc.
How we have you hold the weight for exercises in general will vary depending on what we’ve identified as an over- or under-active muscle. The same goes for how we have you stand, sit, or position your body in an exercise.
What works for one person may not work for another.
Using Allie and I (Katharine) as an example:
I have limited external hip mobility, limited ankle mobility, and long femurs. Both are things that I consistently work on, but they still affect how I squat. How I squat is not “perfect, but it is what works for my body.
Allie has limited external rotation on one side and has trouble engaging her core due to her surgery. How she squats is not “perfect”, but it is what works for her body.
As you can see, even two personal trainers can have completely different and optimal forms for an exercise based on the cards they’ve been dealt (structure, mobility, musculature).
Ultimately, there isn’t a perfect form. There is a safe form per individual.