Form Friday (w/pics)
As we've mentioned in past posts, every now and again we run a special session of our class called Form Friday. While one of us teaches, the other walks around offering personal instruction to class participants. We love Form Friday because it's our opportunity to help our attendees maximize the return on their time investment.

Our goal is to interact at least once with every person in class at some point or another during each of the exercise routines. Here's what we do:
  • Squats - Primarily we're checking to ensure that knees stay behind the toes, and that backs are straight. Though the squat motion seems simplistic, this exercise involves the largest muscle groups - so the potential for injury here is significantly greater than that of the smaller muscles (not to mention the pain).
  • Unless you have very short arms, make sure your handgrip extends all the way out to the plates to optimize form during the chest trackChest - For beginners, we check to make sure elbows don't drop below the shoulders on the downstroke, that handgrips extend out to the plates, and that bars stay centered over the chest (bars to drift over necks as fatigue sets in). We check wrist alignment on the more advanced folks, correcting the all-too-common backwards torque action by having them straighten their wrists.
  • Back & Hamstrings - If we had it our way, we'd have a personal instructor for every participant during this track - plus a couple for ourselves. Beginners struggle to put the moves together, while more advanced folks often select weights that are either too heavy or too light. Perhaps its the complexity of the technique, or maybe just the sheer number of joints and muscles involved in the motion - whatever the case, what we most want to ensure is that class participants execute these motions safely and effectively. It's rare for someone to achieve perfection in this track without some one-on-one help from an instructor.
  • Pay special attention to the elbows during the triceps trackTriceps - The integrity of any exercise involving the arms is heavily dependent on elbow positioning - and that's more true than ever with the tricep track. It's not enough to simply move the bar in the general direction of the forehead or chest - the elbows have to be kept inwards in order to ensure the triceps stay engaged. So our goal is to make sure class participants' elbows stay in that zone, and to help them do that we check for a narrow grip on the bar
  • As with triceps, the elbows need to stay locked in during bicepsBiceps - Once again we're scoping elbows as we walk around the room during this track. The good news is that it's relatively easy to achieve the perfect bicep curl - just lock upper arms and elbows in and give it a go. The bad news, however, kicks in about halfway through the track, so we try to encourage weight selections that will allow class participants to make it all the way through.

  • Check your foot placement during the lunge track to ensure right angles in the legs on the downstrock of each repLunges - Feet are to lunges as elbows are to triceps and biceps, so we're looking to make sure they're placed such that we're seeing right angles in the legs on the downstroke of each rep. That's easier said than done - especially for beginners - so we recommend keeping the bar on the floor until their legs are strong enough to maintain that right-angle form through the entire track.

  • Shoulders - It's the track people love to hate, where often the definition of success is survival with some semblance of dignity. Yet this is one of the few routines that actually feels better when it's done correctly. What we watch for here is inertia; specifically, any elbow motion that continues past the shoulders - and when we see it, the correction is both simple and a welcome relief to shoulders sore from over-extension.

  • Abs - Abdominals are, quite frankly, some of the laziest muscles in the body. They'd recruit your nose if they thought they could use it to get out of doing any real work. So aside from lifting peoples' chins up off their chests, our coaching during this track is all about what goes on upstairs - mentally focusing on the abs so that they get their full share of exercise.
So there it is: Form Friday. We don't do it every week, but we do try and hit it often enough to optimize its effectiveness. Got some tips you'd like to pass on? Click the Comments link below and have your say!
Photographer: Merle Pierson (yes, you read that right)!
9 Comment(s):
On 02 October, 2006, Anonymous NiksonCinnamon said...

I wish I could come to a Form Friday! I always listen to the comments the instructor makes and try to act on them, but never quite know if he means me or if I am doing it properly already!

On 03 October, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As always, well said. I am continually encouraged by the energy and creativity that you two put into your classes. I'd love to teach with you sometime - your participants just don't know how lucky they are.

On 03 October, 2006, Blogger Craig Warman said...

Oh, we have our bad days too. Yesterday's class was treated to a rare sight as Tami informed me she backed her car into my truck on the way to work!

On 03 October, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Going to the Super Quarterly in Chicago this weekend?

On 03 October, 2006, Blogger Craig Warman said...

No, but wish we could! Anyone else?

On 03 October, 2006, Blogger Tami W. said...

Yes - I did back my car into your truck, whch was parked in the wrong spot - but you failed to mention that I did not do ANY damage! : )

On 03 October, 2006, Blogger Craig Warman said...

Yeah and everyone got a good laugh when you had me thinking the bumper was all mushed! You bad thing. ;)

On 05 October, 2006, Blogger Tami W. said...

So - do we have to call him Dr. Pierson now?

Say Merle, I mean Dr. Pierson...impressive resume!

On 23 October, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Form Friday sounds like a great idea.....

My Friday night pump instructor is fairly strict on form but doesn't tend to speak to individuals about what they're doing wrong but rather lectures the whole class!

Still, he's definitely one of the better pump instructors I've ever had.


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