Form First: Why Training the Wrong Way is Worse Than Not Training at All

When you were a kid, someone somewhere along the way told you to sit up straight. No doubt it was irritating at the time, but if you’re one of the 130 million Americans who spend most of their jobs sitting in an office chair, you’re probably starting to realize why “bad posture” is so bad.

We’re not going to rail on bad posture because we’d be preaching to the choir. In fact, you’re probably sitting up straighter right now because you already know that this choice matters. You know that your body is learning and adapting to your behavior every second of every day, and the more your body moves (or sits still) with bad form, the more your brain and body believe that this “wrong” way is actually the right way.

And bad habits are hard to kick.

What is form, and why is it so important?

When we at TB12 say “form first,” we’re talking about more than good posture. Form first means that you’re moving your body in such a way that your muscles are all doing their own jobs — and none of them need to call for backup from an unrelated muscle group. In other words, good form means using the smallest possible number of players — muscles, that is — for the play.

A common example: spinal erectors pretending to be biceps

If you’re performing a straight bicep curl with a heavy resistance band and your arms are getting weak by the tenth rep, the rest of your body might try to help you out. Specifically, it might start to recruit some of your lower back muscles (spinal erectors) for those last few inches of lift. Your body means well, and it doesn’t know any better; it just wants to get the job done. And it might not do any harm the first few times. But over time, the damage starts to show.

As you rehearse this poor bicep curl again and again, your back muscles learn that they’re part of your “bicep curl team.” For all they know, they’re helping out. But in the future, when you try to lift a heavier weight, your back muscles will realize, suddenly and without warning, they’re not made for bicep curls. In other words, they’ll reach their limit — and long before your biceps do. Ultimately, this risks overload and injury to your back.

How do you train proper form? 

To do an exercise correctly, it’s not enough to do what feels right. You need to do your research, and you need someone (knowledgeable) to give you feedback on how the movement looks. We recommend talking to a TB12 Body Coach because this (among countless other things) is what they’re trained to do.

Once you’ve talked to a Body Coach, you might feel like you’re ready to practice good form on your own. If that’s the case, here are two simple guidelines to help you keep your body balanced.

Form first, then reps

As you work out, pay attention to your form. If you start to sense your form breaking down, stop. Switch gears. Do a different exercise or change to a lower resistance or weight. If you don’t, you’re only teaching your body bad habits that ultimately lead to imbalance and injury.

For those of you looking to kill two birds with one stone, you can pay attention to your form as a mindfulness exercise. If you can reach a state of Zen and teach your muscles better habits at the same time, more power to you.

Make time for functional, low-resistance exercises that work your full range of motion

One of the biggest benefits of training with TB12 Resistance Bands is that they train your brain. It’s just like when you learned to write as a kid. You didn’t need a 12-pound pencil to ingrain the strokes for the letter “z” in your muscle memory; all you needed was to repeat the motion again and again, and you got better.

That’s what happens when you train the movements of your sport with a resistance band. You’re not pushing your muscles to the limit; rather, you’re going through the motions with just the right amount of pushback to build stability and solidify your muscle memory. This makes the motion faster, stronger, and smoother on the field.

Test your form with these functional full-body exercises

Ideally, you want to train movements that are specific to your sport. A TB12 Body Coach can help you to build a functional exercise bank for this purpose. But in the meantime, here are a few examples of functional exercises that will test your coordination and balance.

Single Leg Balance with Halo

Equipment: Resistance bands (handled or looped)

Band Position: Overhead

Target: Balance and core stability

  • With your back to the wall and your core stable, hold the resistance band over your head.
  • Raise your right knee to 90 degrees and lower the band to your right shoulder. Then, raise the band back overhead, and then to your left shoulder.
  • Next, raise your left knee and repeat the exercise.

Resisted Walking Plank

Equipment: Resistance bands (looped)

Band Position: Knee height

Target: Balance, core stability, and core strength

  • With the band at a low point on the wall, loop it around your waist. Then, get into a plank position.
  • Keeping your hips level, move as far away from the wall as you can using your legs and arms. Maintain control (and good form) at all times.
  • Switch sides and repeat.

Forward Lunge with High Hold

Equipment: Resistance bands (looped or handled)

Band Position: Overhead

Target: Balance and functional mobility

  • With the band attached high on a wall, door, or anchor point, and face away from where it’s attached.
  • Grip the handle or loop with your right arm.
  • Drop down into a lunge position while keeping your right arm overhead in a locked position.
  • Switch arms and repeat on the other side.

Why focus on form? Because nobody has time to get injured

Training form makes your movements smoother, stronger, and more efficient, and it prevents your body from recruiting the wrong muscles for the job. Meet with a TB12 Body Coach to learn how you can optimize your form, keep your body balanced, and play your best.

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This blog is part of a series based on Tom Brady’s New York Times Bestseller The TB12 Method. To learn more about the ways you can train your brain and your body, read The TB12 Method and subscribe to the TB12 Newsletter.


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