The push up ca only work as well as you know how to work it.

The Silent Workout Killer; Technical Erosion

Technical Erosion is the “silent killer” of workouts.

It’s when your ability to maintain correct technique starts to falter. It disappears slowly  kind of like a sandcastle in the surf or a stone in a river.

It starts with a half millisecond here, or a few degrees there. It may not be a big deal at first, but as the erosion continues things get worse and before you know it, your technique is shot to hell.

Understanding technical erosion is important because when technique starts to falter  all of the things you want from exercise decline. At the same time, all of the things you don’t want are on the rise.

So strength, power, endurance, stability, and safety go down. Risk of injury, discomfort, pain, lack of control and weakness grow.

The real kicker is that technical erosion is, to a point, unavoidable. We are all human and unless you have some sort of super powers technical erosion will happen for the following reasons:

- Fatigue. As they say, fatigue makes cowards of all men. I’m always aware of the fact that anyone can be at their best when they are fresh. However if fatigue creeps in, from any number of sources, your technique will erode.

- Haste. There’s a point where you can increase the speed and pace of what you do and still have good technique. However, if you start to hurry and feel like you’re under the gun, then there is a god chance your technique will erode. So take your time when possible. Use timed workout sparingly and limit haste when and where you can.

- Lack of focus and distraction. When I workout I don’t read magazines, watch TV or listen to an iPod. I sometimes don’t even talk to people. I want my attention 100% on the exercise I’m doing so I can saturate my senses with the technique. It might not seem like much, but having your mind focused on anything other than the technique you’re engaged in will cause some degree of technical erosion.

- Injury, aches or pain. It’s only natural for humans to avoid pain or discomfort. A pebble in the shoe can alter your running gait, and a blister on your hand can cause a weight shift in your push ups. Sometimes suffering through pain comes with the territory of exercise, but it’s never good to ignore it or pretend it doesn’t matter. If it hurts it’s throwing you off to at lease some degree. So take whatever steps you can to minimize or eliminate pain. Both your technique and your performance will be better off.

- Adding too much Intensity. I’m always saying that just because you can lift 500 pounds doesn’t mean you actually should lift 500 pounds. As the intensity of an exercise increases so does the chance for some technical erosion. Adding weight, resistance on cardio machines, or speed can all bring up your intensity to make your exercise more productive. However adding too much can erode your technique and start decimating your productivity.

- Damaged or worn out equipment. Always be aware of keeping your equipment in top working order. A bent barbell can alter your pressing and pulling patterns. Shoes that are worn out will alter how your legs move and thus effect the power and position of your entire body. You’re equipment doesn’t have to be top notch or even pretty in appearance, but anything that causes your body to move in slightly different ways should be repaired or replaced.

It’s always important to understand that technical erosion will happen to at lease some degree as you push your body it it’s limits. As long as you stay on the lookout for technical erosion you can stay safe and make sure it doesn’t disintegrate until there is nothing left. Above all, never sacrifice technique for any reason. Maybe it’s okay to erode your technique to win an occasional sprint, but for every day workouts any gain at the cost of technique is always a loss.

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Comments

  1. Laurie Mackeson

    Hey Matt

    Great article. I know HASTE and (to some degree) ‘creating’ a good environment are ‘traps’ I fall into sometimes. I have taken each of your ‘headings’ and thought of things that ‘fit’ but are more specific to me.

    ‘Fatigue’ – Learning to keep technique while fatigued.

    ‘Haste’ – Use of distractions to ‘quieten the mind’.

    ‘ Injuries/Aches/Pains’ – Modifying technique to manage pain/discomfort WITHOUT adding more of it.

    ‘Intensity’ – Mastering body-weight before attempting body weight assisted exercises.

    ‘Equipment’ – Wearing ‘power clothing’- items that make you feel/move ‘stronger’.

    As usual, I appreciate ALL your thoughts on this topic.

    Cheers
    Laurie ‘Bullet-Proofing my own life’ Mackeson

    1. Author
      admin

      I second the power clothing. Not that I’m all about bench press shirts and stuff, but there are some T-shirts that I feel strong and jacked when I wear them. Anything like that is a good thing to keep wearing a few times a week.

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