What form guidelines should I follow when exercising?

Maintaining proper form is very important when exercising. Here are 3 form tips to keep in mind while resistance training.

  1. Maintain core stability: Always make sure you keep your abdominals tight when you’re working with resistance. This will help you move the resistance smoothly, and minimize the risk of injury – especially in the lower back.
  2. Watch your breathing: Proper breathing makes it easier to move weight. Don’t hold your breath while you’re exercising. This can cause your blood pressure to rise, and even make you pass out. When you’re bringing the resistance back to it’s resting position, you should inhale. Conversely, when you’re working against the resistance to move it, you should slowly exhale.



Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)

Form matters when you're exercising. It helps you get the most benefit out of exercise and so that you avoid injury. Here's what you should do:

  • Look out at eye level or above to spare your neck and keep you from rolling your shoulders forward.
  • Keep your face relaxed and tension free.
  • Relax your shoulders and lift your chest up.
  • Pretend the top of your head is being pulled up by a string to elongate your spine and keep you from rolling forward.
  • Count your reps of each exercise out loud; this counting will help you remember to breathe continuously and keep you from holding your breath.
  • Keep your abs tight and pulled in to support your lower back. (Practice sucking in every time you enter into a car, bus, train, plane, elevator, escalator, everywhere - that way, it becomes automatic.)
  • Keep your knees slightly bent, so you don't lock them.
  • Make sure you could (if you wanted to) always see your hands when doing shoulder exercises.
  • Breathe. (Many people hold their breath while doing strength training.)
  • Keep moving in between exercises to keep your heart rate fast, or move directly to the next exercise. If you're unable to hold a conversation, you're exercising too hard. If you can keep a conversation going and are able to fill the listener in on all the details, you may not be going hard enough.
  • As you get stronger, go longer rather than harder with cardio exercises, and stronger with weight exercises. That is, do more repetitions of any non-weight-bearing exercise. That will help prevent injuries from overexertion. If you really feel weak, just hold the exercise position without moving and slowly work up. It's more important to follow perfect form and do fewer repetitions than to do a lot of repetitions with form that's sloppier than spaghetti in a high chair.
  • For all reclining abdominal exercises, keep your lower back flat on ground. Pretend a quarter is trapped between the floor and your back and keep your belly taut to train your stomach to be flat. As soon as you feel your lower back tenting up, stop and pull it back down as flat as possible before continuing. If this gets too hard, stop and hold it down as flat as possible for 30 seconds. Pretend there is a dumbbell tied to a string attached to your belly button and it is pulling your stomach down toward the quarter.
YOU: On A Diet Revised Edition: The Owner's Manual for Waist Management

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.