“Technique isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.”
If I ever open a gym I’m putting that up on the wall in big BOLD letters. Everything you’re looking to gain from your training boils 100% down to your technique and how well you can maintain it. If your results are lacking, look to your technique. Never consider anything other than technique as the #1 primary goal of your training.
To put it simply, your technique brings you everything you want, and keeps things you don’t want (like injury) at bay.
But what exactly is technique and how do you use it to gain everything from strength to flexibility? While every exercise has it’s own technical considerations improving your technique comes down to 3 primary aspects:
– Body and joint position
This one is the most obvious and the focus of most technical considerations. Examples include where the hips are during a push up, how your knees move during a squat and what position your shoulders take during a pull up.
Unfortunately, most folks limit their technical considerations to just where the body is in space. The idea is that if the body is in the right position then everything should be all lined up and working at an optimal level. While position can be the lions share of a good technique there’s certainly a lot more to consider such as…….
– Muscle activation.
Muscle activation is always something that can be fine tuned. Even if the body is in the same position, you can still change how you’re using your muscles during a given move.
While we often think of an exercise as working a particular muscle, the reality is that the exercise itself doesn’t control your muscle activation entirely. Ultimately it’s your brain that decides what muscles turn on and off and how much force they are creating. The exercise or tool is just a rough template that can be endlessly refined.
– Weight distribution and balance
Lastly weight distribution is a consideration, especially for the bodyweight athlete. Subtle shifts in body weight can significantly alter what muscles are receiving more or less tension.
A good example of this would be doing a push up and then shifting your weight to one side so that arm is now working harder. While this sort of weight shifting might involve a noticeable change in body position, it doesn’t always have to. Sometimes a shift in weight can simply be one limb relaxing a bit so the other has to work harder. In this case little to no movement might be noticed but the activation pattern in the muscles can be substantial.
You can also shift your weight in very subtle, yet profound ways such as where your weight is on your palm when doing push ups. Placing more weight on the inside of the hand can radically change the technical aspects of the entire exercise.
These are the three aspects of technical workouts. Each and every exercise is all about dialing in these three components to achieve greater mastery in the movement. In the next post I’ll go over how things like reps, speed and weight fit into the technical focus.