Technique is everything when it comes to weight training. Yes, you want to work to failure, you want high intensity, but not at the cost of technique. Working to failure, is working to your maximum, it is failure when you cannot lift anymore, cannot perform or complete anymore repetitions of that exercise at that weight. Most people, when trying to do this, go beyond failure of technique and carry on performing the exercise very badly, recruiting fresh muscles that would not ideally be used in this movement pattern, creating a cascade of problems.
Fitness is so specific: if you train doing pull-ups on a 2 inch diameter bar you can’t do as many pull-ups on a 1 inch diameter bar. The SAID (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand) principle states ‘You get what you train for’. So, if you train with poor technique, you will training the wrong muscles and doing more harm than good. For example, if you squat with poor alignment of the spine you will be encouraging and amplifying this misalignment every time you load the spine in a squat movement pattern in everyday life and when skiing. This will lead to reduced performance, pain and injury.
Another example: with plyometrics, make sure you rest properly, otherwise you will train yourself to be weak and slow – the opposite of what you were training for.
If your core is fatigued, you will train yourself to perform movements without optimal support = poor technique = poor performance and injury.
Having a repetition reserve is a great tool for preserving technique in weight training. It basically means you keep a number of reps in reserve, i.e. you could complete a couple more reps (usually one or two) but you don’t. This ensures your last rep will be perfect. You achieve the most adaptation on the last rep because that will be the hardest (due to fatigue from the preceding reps).
work to failure of technique not failure of being able to do the movement
The body has an optimal posture, which it moves around and returns to for optimal performance. This includes:
- natural curves in your upper and lower back/spine (S-shape)
- correct length/tension relationship of muscles (flexibility), especially antagonistic (opposite) ones.
It is not that you should always be in this perfect posture, it is more that you should move each way, equally around this position, always returning to the optimal. Most people’s posture is compromised by too much sitting, unbalanced training, repetitive movement patterns in sport and work, poor diet, injury, emotional issues … I could go on!
When moving, optimal posture gives you the optimal axis of rotation around your body’s joints. You want this because without it you will never reach your full potential and ultimately, you will injure the joint or refer injury to another part of the body. In fact this point is really important as most injury or pain is ‘referred’ or ‘caused’ by a problem somewhere else. Always be careful about treating symptoms: you need to find the cause of the problem for long-lasting results.
Lower Back Pain (LBP) Scenario:
- Generally caused by too much curve in the upper back.
- Caused by too much sitting.
- When you come to your training (or gardening/DIY etc.) you take the curve out of your upper back to complete the task, but in doing so you put too much curve in your lower back.
- This causes ‘pinch points’ which, if your core strength (tummy muscles) is less than optimal, will not be supported.
- So you end up with lower back pain that you treat with all manner of solutions but all you really needed to do was work on your upper back posture.
Be aware of your technique (especially spinal curves) when training and optimise your core strength.