Tip: Go Deep With Technique

Are you really mastering a lift or mobility drill? Probably not. Here's why.

There are the facts:

  • When you first learn something – an exercise, a mobility drill, anything – the person you're learning from has years of experience. So how could you possibly pick the technique up the first time you see it?
  • What something "looks like" and what something "feels like" could be completely different.
  • Assuming you know better is why you eventually get hurt. We're all beginners and can always learn more.
  • Mastery is unattainable and awareness is everything.

Subtle differences in techniques go a lot deeper than most people appreciate. Just because you're "good" at a lift or have impressive numbers, it doesn't mean you have mastered that movement. Check out the three deadlifts below. The loading pattern for each one is completely different... and all are correct.

Can most people even see the difference? Definitely not someone new to deadlifting.

What if the only thing holding back your deadlift numbers was a slight adjustment and not your entire strength training program? There are over 100 articles about deadlift technique on T Nation alone. All are correct and all are different.

Mobility exercises done wrong will lead to injury rather than increase flexibility. Check out this hamstring stretch:

In the first one the leg is completely straight. In the second, the knee is slightly bent and the hamstring stretch is a lot more intense.

Why is this an issue? Well, imagine if you were overextending your knee every time you stretched. What if overlooking this small detail caused you to be having knee problems in a year's time? That's cause for paying attention.

For another example, have a look at this shoulder stretch. It's stupidly popular, but when I ask someone what they're actually doing, they can't answer me.

If you only focus on the shoulder you can run the risk of making your shoulders too mobile and lose stability. Not a good platform for building muscle.

The only thing that makes this stretch change is the thought process of anchoring your shoulders and focusing on your spine moving, which opens your upper back more (thoracic extension). If you attempt to just "drop your chest down" you're probably still just opening the shoulders. But they look the same, don't they? They don't feel the same.

The Lesson

Never assume you picked something up on the first instruction. Ask other people how stretches and exercises feel to them. Explore different cues and thought patterns with movements, and always make sure you're not compromising your joints for the sake of doing a "mobility drill."

Your awareness dictates your strength. Programs are just for practice.

Tom Morrison is a British weightlifting coach, martial artist, and CrossFit trainer and competitor. Tom works with athletes on prerequisite movement capabilities for optimal strength, performance, and reduced risk of injury.  Follow Tom Morrison on Facebook