Wednesday, July 20, 2011

How Important is Exercise Form?

Colonel Bob Climbing Palm
Just the other day during one of the boot camp workouts on the beach, a new recruit who was really out of breath, began to apologize for feeling fatigued and out of breath with statements like, "I'm sorry. I'm really out of shape. Sorry, I can't keep up with the others." Such statements are always an opportunity to address the class with my most important fitness related quotes:   

You must meet my friend Fatigue, before you can meet my friend Progress. Fatigue is the gatekeeper to Progress.

Related to this quote are the instructions about form and modification of exercises.

In the fitness industry there is – in my view – an overemphasis of exercise form and technique. How important is form and technique when exercising? What is the highest priority of any exercise program that is designed to keep us fit? For the past ten years Colonel Bob has been offering a beach boot camp workout on Fort Lauderdale Beach in South Florida. Most of the exercises are natural body weight exercises and the use of a resistance band to add variety to upper body strength training.

The answer to the question about the importance of form can be found in the purpose of the workout. Here are several choices to choose from in deciding what the focus of Colonel Bob's  beach boot camp programs is:

a. Become an athlete
b. Win races
c. Bikini body
d. Combat ready
e. Health and movement
f. Look good in a tight T-shirt
g. Washboard abs
h. Be stronger than anyone else

The correct answer is “e." Health and movement.

The beach boot camp classes are in a group environment which allows for team support and camaraderie. Every new recruit receives the same instructions:

"This is an all fitness levels class. Stay in touch with your body during the workouts. If you need to back off on an exercise, by all means do so."
Here are five exercises as examples of the health and movement approach to exercise:

If you find you are getting too fatigued and cannot keep up with the count of repetitions or you have a medical issue which restricts the performance of a regular squat with proper form, pick the range of motion that will allow you to perform the squat without hurting yourself.

While the class is performing regular push-ups, some recruits will opt to perform knee push-ups. Knee push-ups are a way to modify the regular push-up. However, there is a better way to get more out of the push-up even though you find you cannot go all the way down and push your body back up. The solution is to perform a partial, regular push-up. In this case, you will only go down as far as you can and still push-up your body back up. This modification is much more effective than performing knee push-ups and will eventually lead to you being able to perform a regular push-up without modification.
The resistance band biceps curl sometimes cannot be performed with the full range of motion due to fatigue or other reasons. Simply perform a partial motion especially if you are in a group environment with a specific rhythm of count for the repetitions. You are still working those muscles with a partial motion and you are also working on muscle endurance which is the ability of muscles to continuously work under fatigue.

Jumping jacks, also called a Side-straddle-hop
The first way to modify a jumping jack is to reduce the width of the spread of legs. If you are having medical issues with your legs, simply move your arms and side step with your legs.

Running and jogging
Instead of stopping or slumping in your running posture when getting fatigued, try slowing your pace, even to the point of a shuffle, if necessary. Throttling your pace while maintaining good posture is a great way to keep going and work on that mental strength as well. Do away with that all-or-nothing thought of you can either jog or you must walk or stop. There are many stages of pace in between.  Make use of them. 

Your Action Plan:
Get more out of your strength, endurance and cardio workout while burning more calories and practice safely modifying your workouts. Please consult with your doctor before trying any of the exercise tips found in this article. You perform all exercises in this article at your own risk. 

Weight Loss: Twenty Pounds in Ten Weeks- Move It to Lose It 
Food & Fitness Journal 

You may freely publish this article as long as it includes the following:
Author: Lt. Col. Bob Weinstein, US Army, Retired

Lt. Col. Bob Weinstein, USAR-Ret is a leading authority on military-style physical fitness for civilians and can be found at He is nationally known as the Health Colonel and has been featured on the History Channel. He specializes in a military-style workout for all fitness levels on Fort Lauderdale Beach in South Florida. He is the author of Boot Camp Fitness for All Shapes and Sizes, Weight Loss - Twenty Pounds in Ten Weeks, among others. Sign up for his free Health and Fitness Newsletter at