I have a request to talk about good form today and how to motivate egotistical people on how to change their form, even if it means cutting back on the weight.
I’ll paint the picture. You’re a 20-something aged dude living in a Mid-Atlantic metropolitan area; let’s just say Baltimore. You head into the gym on Monday at 5:30pm and it’s time to hit the bench! You’ve been waiting for this all weekend. Naturally all the benches are occupied so you have to warmup longer and do some more corrective exercises until a bench clears out. Finally that group of 4 teenagers texting and pointing at the girls on the treadmills move on to biceps curls so you walk over to the bench only to be cut off by another bro wearing your high school’s rivals lax practice jersey! You recognize him as your sworn enemy from high school who stole away that girl you knew of but never actually talked to on the same day he scored the goal to beat your high school team in the lax state championship.
The bench right next to it that the obligatory old guy with his feet propped up on the bench to protect his back (terrible idea!) clears out.
You step up to the plate, knock the dirt off your cleats and dig in. You load up the 45s on each side to warm it up. Things are going well and the set feels good but you notice the bro next to you has already moved up to 2 45s on each side for another warmup set. You follow the code and throw on those other 45s as well. Still good. You had watched the Coastal Performance tip of the week on shoulder savers and were really trying to keep your shoulders squeezed way back and elbows in close to the body. He throws on 265 for a set of 3. Ok, you’re doing sets of 3 too.
But you’ve only gotten up to 260 and been able to keep your form that you’re still trying to groove. It feels right, but you know you can get more weight if you went back to your old form you were more comfortable with. You could totally crank out a set of 275 for 3 right now and crush this dudes soul…
And here we find one of life’s ultimate dude dilemmas. Do we stay the course, or do we revert back to old ways for egotistical reasons. My answer is obviously going to be to keep your form. There are very few circumstances that warrant weight over form. One may be a competition deadlift with over 600 lbs. on the bar. Good luck keeping your shoulder blades squeezed back and back flat as a board. But, those guys that can do that are so strong and kinesthetically aware, they can get away with it for a one time max out effort. ANYONE else, under any circumstances is putting themselves at a huge risk by sacrificing form.
But it’s not all bad. There is a reason for good versus bad form. We call it bad and cheating for a reason. Bench pressing with our shoulders forward puts a horrible stress on the shoulders and prevents the rotator cuff muscles from properly firing and protecting the most mobile (read:vulnerable) joint in the body. Flaring our elbows out wide hikes up our shoulder blades to a shrugged position which also compromises shoulder function. Play with fire and you will get burned. Bench in a way that puts the shoulders in a bad position and you will be in shoulder pain. Maybe not immediately, but that day will come, and we’ll see how much work you can get done with a shoulder in pain. I’ve been there before, it’s not pretty. But it is preventable and solely your responsibility to prevent given your knowledge on good form.
It’s not just bench either. Try to squat down by letting your knees come forward and tell me that looks like an athletic safe position to be in. Now do it with 405 on your back trying to impress the girls over by the dumbbell rack. (hypothetical situation, I’m not actually a fan of the back squat anymore for most people) The point is form matters. Form is all that matters. It’s necessary for building strength and muscle in the right places which will allow you to build a bigger stronger body on top of it. Way more impressive than that dude in the lax jersey on the bench throwing up 265.