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Back to Basics

If we aren’t vigilant with our exercise, like most self-improvement endeavors, we can backslide. Proper form, appropriate intensity and regular frequency are exercise variables that can all begin to drift. As we begin the New Year, One on One’s Focus Point of the Week will address the most basic of these variables: Proper Form.

Failing to exercise with proper form will, at best, feed dysfunctional movement and, at worst, lead to injury. This alone is reason enough to invest ourselves into knowing and practicing proper form while training.

The “Back to Basics” Focus Point of the Week series teaches and reinforces the most important concepts to help you exercise safely and effectively.


By: Bruce and Ryan Burke

Last Updated: 02/04/24

When your car begins to leak oil, it creates problems. Over time, the car will begin to run poorly. The same is true regarding proper form when training. When the perfect form you use at the beginning of a set begins to “leak” as a result of discomfort and fatigue, the exercise (at best) becomes less effective. This week’s Focus Point will help you understand and avoid this common pitfall. Building on our previous post, Setup and Endpoints, this week’s Focus Point hones in on the importance of maintaining proper form more specifically as we move between the endpoints.

Simply put, “leaks” are the creation of biomechanically incorrect compensations as you exercise. Instead of moving with proper mechanics throughout an entire set, leaks are the breakdown in form typically associated with increased intensities. These altered mechanics may have the effect of making the exercise easier, but making it easier is not the objective. The objective is most often increased strength, hypertrophy or endurance, not just getting to a predetermined rep-range.

Biomechanically incorrect compensations can have harmful consequences:

  • It is unsafe. When we are not in biomechanically optimal positions, our muscles and joints experience unnecessary stress. Suddenly, our efforts to strengthen the muscles around our joints has a reverse effect.
  • It is less effective. Quality training done with proper form produces positive adaptations to our strength, flexibility and stamina. When leaks appear, we get diminishing returns. We begin to focus solely on task completion…finishing the set. As mentioned earlier, performing a predetermined number of reps is not the objective.
  • Leaks promote and perpetuate poor movement quality. Compensatory movement patterns can lead to pain and injury. When we exercise, our brain is learning how to move and accomplish physical tasks. When we teach our brain how to compensate through leaks, we become less functional and more susceptible to avoidable injuries.

See the video below to learn some common ways that our form might leak while strength training:

Moving forward, be sure to know why you are performing an exercise and understand how to perform it properly. Then, as the intensity increases, don’t let your excellent form leak. If you finish the set with the exact same form you start with, you will stay safe and have your best shot at accomplishing your objectives.