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  • Alison Synakowski

Why training for perfection is hurting you

We’ve all heard it, done it, said it. We want perfect form with movements. What does perfect form mean? How is it defined? Is it even necessary to be so perfect? Is training for perfections what we need?

I want to break down the walls here, perfect form is NOT necessary. Training to be IN PERFECT form - is really not necessary - and quite frankly could be hurting us. Here are some reasons against training perfect form.

Movement should be natural - thinking about movement is not normal. When we walk - we are not constantly asking our gluts to fire or squeezing our quads tight with each step. It just is not how we are wired. If we train with a heavy mental focus on “firing the right muscles” - this is likely not to translate to natural movement - and seems to have the opposite effect in my opinion. I argue that if we are not “feeling the right muscles” during an exercise - it is likely not the right exercise for us at that time. Changing the context of the movement to hit the “target tissue” is likely going to give us more benefit than actively asking our body to “work right”.

Our daily movements are not perfect. Inevitably when we are completing daily tasks or playing a sport our knees will go over our toes, our knees will cave in, our trunk may lean too far forward, we may miss a step when going down stairs. The more variability we train, the more we allow our bodies to experiment and move differently - the more prepared we are for what life throws at us.

We all do not fit into the same box. Your squat may look different than mine. Our posture and gait mechanism may be different. Our anatomy is likely different. Thus why do we keep trying to get everyone into the same movement patterns? The best movement is the movement that feels good, works the “target tissue”, and challenges us individually. I do believe we should all incorporate the primal movements (push, pull, lunge, squat, carry) into our workout routines - but each exact exercise is up for discussion and based on the individual’s current capabilities.

It may train us to become fearful. If you’ve had back pain you may fear bending forward, or worse yet been told to never bend forward. If the “perfect squat” hurts your knees you likely do not want to do it. I find that the more we focus on perfection, the less experimental we will be with movements - thus the less diverse we will be with our movements. When we heavily focus on not letting our backs bend, what happens in real life when it needs to bend? Often (not always) - we hurt due to lack of preparation, or fear that we did something wrong, which then contributes to pain.

There are many other reasons that training for perfection “hurts us” more than helps us. Here are some idea take aways - always look to find what you CAN do that FEELS good. Focus on what the target tissue is supposed to be (example: During squat you should feel your quads and gluts - if you do not feel these - you may feel your back or the front of your hips) - and if you are not able to naturally hit the target tissue -find a different exercise in the same family. Don’t go in aiming for perfection - the exercise should be hard but feel good - allow yourself some errors. With practice, movement patterns will improve without having to think.

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