A Quick Checklist for Great Weight Lifting Form - Upper Body

We’ve all seen him, the guy at the gym who is throwing his overly large set of dumbbells around in a spastic manner. It drives me batty for several reasons, first, he will hurt himself, second, he is missing out on much of the benefit that comes from weight lifting. Slower lifts yield greater muscle strength.

A great way to set up your form is to work from the ground up, with your feet hip distance apart, your knees slightly soft, your tummy pulled in tight, and hips slightly tucked, so that your spine is in a neutral position. From your trunk, work your way up to your shoulders. I like to shrug my shoulders up towards my ears, press them back, and then down, as if I am placing my shoulder blades in my imaginary back pockets.

When you’re new to weight lifting, you may consider isolating arm movements to below shoulder or above shoulder. Arm movements originating from below the shoulder, such as a lateral raise, should begin at your sides and end no higher than shoulder level. Movements originating from above the shoulder, say a shoulder press, should begin and end at shoulder height.

In general, when you are performing an exercise correctly, and with the right weight, the parts of your body not actively involved in the exercise should be still. An example, if your completing a bicep curl, your body should not move back or forth or side to side. If you cannot perform the movement without moving your body, you are lifting too heavy a weight or you have lost your correct form. Consider lowering your weight, resetting your form, or pulling your abdominal muscles in tighter, as if a girdle was tightened around waist.

I’ll add tips for maintaining form while working lower body muscle groups soon.