Physical therapist, personal trainers stress the importance of good form during workouts
At some point in their four years at college, most students have probably promised themselves something along the lines of “I’m going to go to the gym at least five days a week from now on.”
It’s an admirable intention that serves as a great way to counteract the notorious “freshman 15.” However, proper workout form is not always practiced correctly.
“We have several students that come in on a routine basis, some that use [the Activities and Recreation Center (ARC)] sparingly and some that never use the facility,” said Tyler Scudero, coordinator for informal recreation for UC Davis’ Campus Recreation and Union (CRU). “Our goal with the ARC is to provide an atmosphere where students, staff, faculty, alumni and the surrounding Davis community can receive a workout.”
Although the ARC is open to undergraduate and graduate students most hours of the week during the academic school year, there are still many who are not interested in making use of this campus resource.
Yvonne Lo, second-year atmospheric science graduate student, said that while she would like to work out in the weight-room, she does not feel comfortable around the “serious lifters” who usually occupy this space.
“It’s intimidating because there [are] so many people,” Lo said. “Because I need help with my form, I have to have someone there with me.”
Bad form in fitness training is widely prevalent in gyms, and college students are especially prone to this, mostly due to their hectic schedules that allow no time for practice.
In light of this, quick workouts would be ideal. However, this can lead to improper lifting and overworking certain parts of the body. This has detrimental physical effects, including lifelong injuries if handled incorrectly.
“I see people doing bicep curls, but using their back and the rest of their arms too much,” said Scott Nelson, a fourth-year atmospheric science major. “Also deadlifts and planks — a lot of people arch too much and end up putting all the pressure on their back.”
Austin Hendrickson, fourth-year exercise biology major and personal trainer at the ARC, agreed with Nelson’s observations and said he observes form mistakes frequently at the ARC.
“The biggest [mistakes] come from misuse of squat racks — so front squats, back squats and deadlifts,” Hendrickson said. “They are easiest to injure yourself because they involve full body awareness and control.”
According to Susan Koo, physical therapist at Sutter Physical Therapy in Woodland, the most common weight lifting injury that she has encountered is lower back pain from faulty deadlift forms. If it goes unnoticed, the back pain may lead to herniated disks, which can require surgery.
“It’s important to engage your core to stabilize and maintain a neutral spine position when deadlifting,” Koo said. “Make sure to fold at the hips and not the lower back, keep the knees behind the toes, push through the heels and engage the glutes for the lift, and stop at the top with a glute squeeze to straighten the hips without hyperextending the lower back.”
Koo also said that it is important to make sure to continue performing the motion correctly when increasing weights, as many beginners tend to rush through lighter weights, increasing the risk of injury.
“One might have to start the deadlift exercise with lighter weights supported on a small step on either side so the bar is higher and you don’t have to bend as low if your hips are stiff,” Koo said. “But it’s important to train within your ability and range where you can still perform the motion with good form.”
One way students can ensure they learn proper form is by scheduling appointments with the ARC’s personal trainers. The ARC currently has six personal trainers who are certified by the American Council on Fitness and serve Davis students and community members with regards to their workout goals.
Hendrickson, who is also the captain of the men’s rowing club team at UC Davis, stressed that form is a subject matter that should be important to everyone, not just athletes.
“I always recommend to everyone to research the exercises they want to start doing,” Hendrickson said. “There is an overwhelming amount of information out there that is so easily accessible.”
According to Sports Clubs Coordinator Mike Dominguez, the ARC will soon be undergoing renovation which he hopes will promote confidence in students’ workout habits.
“The ARC will be putting more, smaller circuit areas for people so they don’t feel the intimidation of going into this big room with everybody else,” Dominguez said. “It’s so that they can go into a few pockets at the ARC where there’s only ten people, do their workout, and feel more secure because they won’t have to worry about so many people looking at them if they do something silly.”
Dominguez is interested in integrating the ARC’s personal trainers into group exercise classes to ensure students get more direct attention, and to avoid fitness mistakes that could lead to lifelong injuries.
“The best way to learn good technique is working one-on-one with a physical therapist or a certified strength and conditioning trainer,” Koo said. “They can demonstrate and provide the cues needed to perform the exercise safely and correctly.”
Written by Lisa Wong – email@example.com