The most under-utilized training tool
When it comes to training, I believe there is one vital equipment tool that is often overlooked. I believe this tool will help you in a big way to get more out of your training.
Are you executing your exercises correctly? Are you certain?
If you answered yes, how are you making sure you are performing your exercises correctly?
A knowledgeable trainer can help you with execution but I’m referring to a mirror as being one of the most under-utilized training tools.
If you're not using the mirror as it as a fundamental tool to guide you in your training, you're likely making some alignment and execution errors (of course, you first need to have the knowledge to know what is correct and incorrect alignment). In fact, using a mirror is instrumental in ensuring you're executing your exercises properly. Unless you have an experienced coach right by your side cueing you every step of the way, you’ve likely got some alignment flaws in your exercise repertoire, and if your alignment is incorrect, then that can also lead to injury. Although it doesn't always manifest immediately, and in many cases, may not show up for quite some time, but eventually down the road, it catches up and can cause pain and much more serious issues. Consequently, doing exercises wrong can put undue stress on your joints rather than the muscles you're trying to target. Incorrect execution not only puts you at risk for injury it also hinders you from getting maximum results.
I must say, I had to discipline myself to use the mirror because in my early days of training, before I figured how important a tool the mirror was, I would go out of my way to not look at the mirror and not look at myself because I had such low self esteem and I just simply wasn’t comfortable with that practice. The confidence issue was huge. Once I defined the mirror as a piece of equipment, a tool vital for progress, I got over it. If you have poor alignment, your progress will suffer and who wants to waste their training time just going through the motions? Not I!!! The injury factor is also a massive deterrent.
I was doing it wrong!
I had to tweak and play around with the positioning of my back in the plank exercise for the longest time because I had rounding happening in my upper back and the only way you can really fix that is by learning how to control and isolate parts of your body and then figure out how to position it properly to get your desired outcome. As well, you need to figure out what muscles to relax and which ones to tense and contract. It is essentially a trial and error practice and a learning of how to manoeuvre and properly position parts of your body to achieve correct alignment. Practice makes perfect.
Don't exercise in a burlap sack!
If you’re wearing baggy clothes, it will be impossible to know what your core/midsection is doing. If you can't see what body parts are doing because they're hidden by loose clothing, how can you make corrections and properly position it for optimal strength, stability and injury prevention, especially when it comes to your lower back? Wear clothing that is fairly snug so you can assess your posture and alignment more precisely and be able to position it with greater accuracy and set yourself up for success. You cannot correct what you don't see.
How does it feel and where are you feeling it?
These are questions you need to ask yourself. Do you even know which exercises you may be performing incorrectly because in most cases, people are simply unaware unless they have the assistance of a pro. Doing exercises incorrectly can wreak havoc down the road on knees and shoulders especially, not to mention wrists, and the probability of injuries all-around increasing exponentially.
I can't emphasize enough the power of enlisting the help of a reputable pro (until you learn the ins and outs) and putting important value in learning how to execute your exercises correctly; the set up, TVA engagement, which muscles to contract and which to relax, foot placement, etc. This is especially important if you have little to no experience lifting weights and have the goal to add a strength training component to your exercise regime.
Avoid pitfalls and discouragement by acquiring knowledge. Train safe, get stronger, leaner and make progress!
Keep training and continue to get stronger!