T Nation

Form vs. Technique


I think one of the biggest misconceptions beginners have when it comes to lifting is that there is only one way to perform a particular lift. I was watching some lifting vids on youtube and was shocked by the number of people posting negative comments about a lifter's 'form'. I thought it would make a good thread topic, and if my T-Nation calendar is correct, it's about time for the 'form' arguments to start up again anyway.

In my opinion, there is a big difference between FORM and TECHNIQUE when performing a lift. Either concept can define a lift, but they have different purposes.

FORM keeps you from getting hurt. Bad form on squats would be rounding your back or leaning forward. It can also be a qualifying rule for a lift. If you don't descend to at least parallel, your not doing squats. You may be doing some variation (partial reps or lockouts come to mind), but it doesn't qualify as a squat.

TECHNIQUE is a way of performing an exercise with a certain purpose in mind. Bench pressing with your elbows flared is not wrong. It's not bad form, it's just a different technique to target a different area or ratio of muscle. Body english is fine, too, if it has a purpose.

So I guess what I'm trying to get across is that just because someone does a particular lift differently than you do, doesn't mean he's wrong. Instead of immediately dismissing it as bad form, ask him why he does it that way. You may just learn a little something.

I'd really like to get experienced lifters in on this. If you're an accomplished lifter, either by size or by strength, please post in this thread. Let us know what lifts you really get great results from, their intended purpose, and the technique used for performing them. Include any mental cues or special rules you use. I'm looking forward to learning a lot from this.


so your saying aslong as you lifting with out getting hurt and it is relevant to your goals then its all good. I can agree with that.

but sometimes you se people do stupid things.

here is an example:

a guy in my gym was doing bent-over-laterraises. he was yusing ca.12,5kg pr. dumbell. the thing is that he was only able to move hes underarms, he did not flex his posteriordelts ( what is the point with the exercise ). my point is that, wen it comes to iso-work, body english is a waist of time. the same with people ho put on alot of weight in the pulldownmachine, and yust pull the weight to the forehead.

I think that average non-pro people dont now howe to youse body english. but experienced people can, because they now much more about there bodys. I am a average non-pro so I dont cheat because I dont now how to do it properly.

I now I am not big, strong or that experienced. so dont shoot me for writing in this tread.


I see where you're coming from, but that's why you listen to the guys that have accomplished something. If a guy who's been training for ten years and still only weighs 160 tries to tell me how 'he does it', I'm most likely only taking notes on what NOT to do.


sorry bro, ain't the civil rights era no more


I would call myself a beginner, and I can say that "body english" has helped me improve a few of my isolation lifts. Sometimes it's not about lifting the weight enough, sometimes you need to put something heavier on and do a few negatives.

But, I don't really think this is the right direction for this thread...

I'd like to hear some more about the initial lifting phase of the deadlift. I just recently read the 5/3/1 ebook and realized that I've been really accelerating into the weights to lift them, where Wendler recommends to slowly engage the weights so you don't tear a bicep. I've also found that when accelerating into the bar like that, it causes my back to round slightly, so there's another reason to change.

I figure I could find this on another thread, but for the purposes of the Technique/Form, could someone elaborate on what they've found useful in getting the bar off the ground (Ha, other than to "just lift it" or "with your hands")?


Body english on rows never hurt nobody, just ask maraudermeat


if the guy weighs 160 after ten years of lifting and hes goal was 200, then he have done something wrong and you should not copy his diet or training style or both. as you sad, perhaps do the opposit hehe :slight_smile:

all I am saying is that even some of the pros and experienced do lift with body english, it should not be an excuse for the beginners with crappy form to continue with crappy form :slight_smile:

buth about the hecclers at youtube ho scream out bad form when a guy at 200+ with low bodyfat%
is doing something that mentzer dont approve of. yes they should shut up and squat hehe :stuck_out_tongue:


i totally agree with the OP's entire opening post. IMO, one must take the time to learn all the lifts through their full ROM. they need to perfect their form. once they've pefected their form and have put some time in under the bar, then one can start to move into the realm of movement variations.


No one ever got big or strong by lifting light weights slowly.

All too often it's the smallest, weakest guy in the gym (or on youtube) that has a negative comment about your technique. I would agree with Meat here. Once you know what you're doing, then you can cheat the movements. If you can lift a heavier weight through the same range of motion, or get a few more reps with a little body english, then you will get stronger than by observing "perfect" form.

Another thing I see is that most newb's don't realize that what they saw in a textbook or read in an article may not pertain to everyone's bodytype. Someone with longer legs and a shorter torso is going to DL (or Squat) a hell of a lot differently than someone with short legs and a longer torso. Some people are just built to DL and they make it look effortless, others (like me) tend to SLDL it. That's just how we pull. I'm not going to knock 2 or 3 hundred pounds off my DL so it can look like the lastest article said it should.

And as far as isolation lifts go...if you're really concerned with whether or not you are cheating the move, well, you probably aren't that big anyways. Big compound movements are going to get you big and strong, not isolation movements. Use them as a finisher, or a rehab movement. Move heavy ass weights...pulls, pushes, squats, dl's...

But as a beginner, you've got to learn how to do it right first. I agree with JayPierce wholeheartedly on this one...Before you critique someone much stronger or much bigger than you, ask them why they do it the way they do. Just maybe you'll walk away with something you can use.


There's a lot of good points here. I think the main difference between iso moves and compound moves (aside from the actual move itself of course) is the intended purpose of them. Typically iso moves are performed in order to isolate a muscle (duh) and put maximum time under tension on it.

For curls, the biceps is the targeted muscle. If you get to the end of a set of ten for example and you start to fail at nine, you can use body english to try to finish the reps, and you may succeed, but because the biceps is isolated throughout the motion, finishing the last two reps with body english takes some tension off of the biceps and places it elsewhere. Since the point of an iso move is to develop a specific muscle, body english may finish the set but it doesn't maintain max tension on the target muscle. You'd be better off trying to squeeze that ninth rep out without leaning or jerking or whatever it takes to finish it, even if it means simply holding the weight at the sticking point until you can't hold it anymore. This maintains max tension on the biceps. If you hold it for say, ten seconds midway through the 8th rep, trying to complete it but failing to, this is more beneficial than using the rest of the body to get to ten. Is the goal of an iso move to finish a certain amount of reps, or is it to fatigue the muscle entirely?

For compound moves, I think technique and form come hand in hand. Because there are many more muscles involved and compound moves have a neuromuscular aspect to them, the point is to finish the move with proper form, regardless of your "technique" in doing so. For compound moves, proper form to me simply means to do whatever you can to finish the move with a full ROM safely. I'm sure we've all done a heavy single-rep squat where we've started to lean forward as we drive upwards. When this happens to me, the forward lean may help me get the weight up, but it is not proper form because it opens me up to back injuries. To me technique is simply how each individual executes proper form. I use my feet and hips to help drive upward during a heavy bench rep, which is a technique, but there are right and wrong ways to do this. If I drive with my hips/feet at the wrong time, my form in implementing this technique is wrong. Technique can be anything from footwidth during squats or deadlifts, hand placement during squats or bench, etc, etc. But that technique must still utilize proper form.

I think a good analogy is to compare the compound moves to a pitcher's delivery. The proper form for a delivery results in a strike thrown and with a motion that will not lead directly to injury. But every pitcher uses a different technique to accomplish this. Some, like Tim Lincecum, have a unique technique, but all of the mechanics are still correct, i.e. arm position when lead foot hits the ground, hand separation, hip turn and so on. He just gets to all of these points differently. Fuck, I'm rambling now. You get the point.


So give us a lift, Meat! Start with one I copied from you, the t-bar row. I use a different implement than you, but I'd still like to know your mental cues and whatnot for doing them.


Here's how i do t-bar rows. i call them ghetto rows. i use a pulldown handle and slide it behind the bar. setting up on this movement is the most important thing. to handle really heavy weight, the feet have to be pretty close to the plates. this way you are pully the weight back to you. i've seen people do this where they almost stand up as they are doing the reps.. that is bad. i don't bend all the way over so that my back is parallel to the floor. i pick an angle that allows me to get the best stretch in my lats. once i find it, i keep that angle throughout the movement. i pull the weight back into my gut keeping my elbows to me sides. this allows me to get the biceps into the movement as well. obviously i use some body english to get the weight all the way back to my gut but that's necessary when going very heavy. the key to keeping this movement safe is in keeping the lower back neutral (not rounded) during the execution. i lock the back and hips into place. i use the same form on bent over barbell rows. i'll also attach a video of them.


I don't necessarily agree with your distinction between technique and form.

Benching elbows flared, touching down to high chest/neck could potentially aggravate the shoulders more and cause injury. It may also limit the weight used. It may also result in more pectoral stimulation. Is this bad technique? Is it bad form? I don't think you can clearly say either way without more information.

It's bad technique because it limits the amount of weight that can be pressed. It's good technique because it results more pectoral stimulation. It's bad form because it can result in injury. It's good form because you can't get as good pectoral stimulation benching any other way, unless you put your feet up; but that's bad form because you no longer have a steady base and could tip over.

However I do agree with the overall sentiment of your post, and in particular, I absolutely agree with this:


Sick lifts. Those are actually a couple of the videos that led me to create this thread. The comments are ridiculous.

I need to build a deficit platform for doing these and deficit deads. The implement I use has handles that are just higher than the plates, and I have long arms (6' 2.75" @ 5'11" height). If I stay bent over, the plates hit the floor.


I think this is where a lot of us go wrong. Sometimes technique dictates that you must lower the weight to get the effect you're looking for, and sometimes it allows you to lift more.

I use Good Mornings as a hamstring exercise. I keep my knees fairly straight and focus the tension on the back of the leg. If I go too heavy, my glutes take over and my hams don't get worked the way I want them to.

I'm still trying to figure out my technique for DL's. My form is good, but I'm trying to tweak the movement for my leverages, so I'd say my technique is crap.


Well, I mean, it depends upon ones goals. If what you are doing is the best way to reach your goals, then I say you have good form/technique. :slight_smile:

What is "best" is what I think is up for debate. Some may say, even for a bodybuilder, benching arms flared to the neck is bad form, since the danger in it causing injury outweighs the benefits of greater pectoral stimulation.

Erm, I think we agree here? That unless you know why a person is doing an exercise, and what his goals are, that you cannot simply say "bad form" or "bad technique."


I get comments about lifting from friends who don't lift. And it just baffles me. It's just one of those things, like fighting, cars, computers, or sports, that some people seem to think they know it all, when they don't have a damn clue.

Oh well.




So clue us in on one of your lifts. What movement do you 'cheat' on that gives you results?


good post OP. You can move hgeavier weight by using form of a poerlifter than a bodybuilder, but you still have to have body english.


You accidentally that sentence.