Do you know you are lifting correctly? Regardless of yes or no, how do you know?
These are important questions. Lifting correctly can be the difference between getting injured or staying healthy. It can also be the difference between getting a heavier PB or failing to complete the lift. So how do we know if we are lifting correctly?
Mirrors. That's right, not just for posers. By all means, if you can sneak a look and get a good angle, have a cheeky pose; just don't get in the way of others when you do so. Otherwise, that mirror is there for form checks. Mirrors are good for this. Not great, they are good. They are a big distraction, and they can make you lift incorrectly if you have to crank your neck to see them. Use mirrors wisely, make sure, if you are to use a mirror, that it doesn't pull you out of position so you can see yourself. Your gaze can completely alter your movement pattern and your body's position. One more thing, try not to rely on mirrors, I prefer to instruct my clients without mirrors so that they can feel the exercise, which is much more important. This will develop a mind-muscle connection and allow you to know when the exercise feels right or wrong, and how to feel it out to correct it.
Videos. If you're able to set up recording yourself on your lifts, this is a much better way of checking your form. No distractions and you get to replay it over and over again (for form checking, obviously...). You can get great apps which can help you break your exercise down and see where you might be going wrong and then diagnose how to fix it, if you know how. The only issue with this is, don't put your phone down in the way of others so that they trip on it. No matter how great your phone case is, a 20kg dumbbell getting dropped on it will still break your phone, so be wary. This method can be quite impractical in smaller gyms with less space.
Personal trainer/coach. Obviously this is the best one. A personal trainer (PT) or coach is going to give you feedback AS you lift, cues when required, and can film from a much better angle than if you stand your mobile up against a weight plate nearby. Depending on the exercise (the more complex, the more will be required to analyse, a bicep curl isn't really worth filming/analysing to such an extent) will depend on what exercises may be required to fix the movement. For example, if someone has a tendency to use their hips a bit too much in a high bar squat, then maybe some front squats could be prescribed to bring about a more vertical torso.
Why do we need to know? If the lift is coming up, then that's all that matters.
Injuries. For example, If someone is picking up a deadlift with a very rounded back, the chances of injury are increased dramatically. Sure, they could do that 10,000 times and not get injured, but let's look to reduce the chances within those 10,000 reps and clean up that deadlift.
Bar path. Not only will the chances of injuries be reduced, but the efficiency of the individual during that lift will increase. If the individual is lifting in a zig-zag manner, this movement pattern is going to be learnt. This is normal to that lifter now. That zig-zag manner is adding extra distance to the lift. This is more work (Work done = distance * time). This means the amount of weight that lifter will be able to achieve won't be as much as another lifter who lifts in a straight line. We all know that the heavier the weight, the better the training effect. Whether you are training for fat loss or muscle gain, heavy lifting is required. No matter if it's over 1 rep, 12 or 20. So if we can get a better bar path, we can get better, more optimal results.
Correct accessory exercises. Even if you aren't training to powerlift, the squat and deadlift especially are great exercises that are often staples to someone's workout (however, this doesn't mean you HAVE to do them, that's for a different article). If we are using those exercises and there are other movements out there that will help to improve them, then we need to know which ones are most appropriate. As I mentioned earlier, someone in a high bar squat (the bar is high up on their back, on their traps) with a tendency to use their hips too much, would benefit from working with front squats. The reason being is the hips should be used much less in a high bar squat as the quads should be the primary muscles working, so we need to teach the quads to work in the squat pattern for this individual. The front squat is not the only one, but it is a good example movement to teach that.
So, use the mirrors where possible, but don't rely on them and don't let them alter your movement and positioning if you need to turn to look. Film complex movements where possible, or ideally, get yourself a PT or coach to get the most out of your exercises.
Thanks for reading!