For many, the most difficult part of body-building is “form.” Push-ups and sit-ups only work if you’re practicing correct form, but what is the correct form? Good exercise form is a crucial part of getting the results you want, and the quality of training affects the outcome more than quantity. One could spend hours at the gym, but with incorrect form, these hours can literally be translated into minutes in terms of success and outcome.

When considering good exercise form, the most basic aspect to keep in mind is spinal alignment. The spinal column is sensitive and prone to injury, so even the slightest mishap in this area could result in pain. The lower back should remain slightly concave, and to achieve this, one should push their chest up and out, while simultaneously pulling the shoulder blades together.  This action of the shoulder blades, known as scapular retraction, is very important for almost all exercises. Once this motion is completed, the spine is correctly aligned and stress placed on the spinal column is minimized. This minimization provides a more comfortable work-out and a lower percentage of potential for injuries.

When considering range of motion, joint alignment is key. For example, when one body-builds using a bench press, proper joint alignment is crucial. One’s elbows should be at the same level as the shoulders, and at this point, the upper arms should be parallel to the floor. This parallelism is difficult to see, so a spotter or work-out partner is often needed to practice proper joint alignment during body-building, especially during bench pressing. When bench pressing, “standard grip” should always be used. To invoke the standard grip, all one has to do is make sure their wrists are over the elbows (elbow-to-wrist alignment.) This ensures a proper grip and minimizes the chances of injury. This grip is slightly wider than shoulder width, and the bar should be slightly above the chest.

The same can be said for a barbell curve. By practicing bad joint alignment, the exercise will prove to be useless. For this exercise, one should keep the elbows pulled back. This ensures that the biceps perform the majority of the work and that tension on the wrists will be noticeably cut back. By simply keeping joint and spinal alignment in mind during body building, strain and injury can be minimized while simultaneously producing the kind of results wanted. Practicing good exercise form may be difficult at first, but it is simply the first step of a productive exercise and body building routine.