Proper Form

I’ve now spent the majority of August in the weight room at our gym, lifting, pushing, pulling, working every muscle group with the best respective exercises, in the safest way I can. I’m far from an expert when it comes to weight lifting, however, I’ve informed myself enough to know that when I pick up a weight or get under a barbell, I’m going to carry out that exercise with proper form.

When you decide one day that you want to abandon the cardio machines and venture over to the weight area of your gym for the first time, you’re probably going to want to cry be a bit intimidated by everything going on over there – especially if you’re a girl and especially if you have no idea what you’re doing. I had a pretty good idea, but I was still really overwhelmed with the sea of bulky, grunting, scantily clad dudes who seemed to be throwing their weights down at my feet with every step I took. Maybe it was their way of trying to scare me out of their sacred, testosterone and sweat laden lair…or maybe it was a figment of my imagination. Either way, they all looked like experts to me, with bulging muscles and perfect form. It kinda psyched me out, making me reluctant to do anything but just watch them, shy and weak, from the most desolate corner of the gym while I merely contemplated the idea of working out along side any of them.

Well, I decided to suck it up and get to it because staying intimidated wasn’t going to help me get stronger. And, to my surprise, I realized very quickly that a lot of people (a lot of the guys!) around me at the gym have little-to-no idea what they’re doing – whether it’s their improper form, doing an exercise that does more harm than good, or just plain ignorance, a lot of them seem to be ill-informed.

So, in order to ensure that you always know what you’re doing, read up and research the proper form and different techniques associated with the exercises you incorporate into your workouts extensively before you attempt them. It will save you from serious injury, I promise.

I’m going to go over two of the main – and two of the most important – exercises that I’ve seen demonstrated incorrectly at my gym. I’ll include some useful links and videos to show you how to perform these moves correctly.

For a really good reference, Nerd Fitness has a lot of useful information about working out properly in a gym, including how to warm up properly, how to squat, how to deadlift, how to do a pull-up, and how to do a push-up. I’m kind of obsessed with this site, but it’s one of the best all-around resources I’ve found on the internet to date and if I can find everything I need in one place, I’m not going to be mad about it. Right? Right. Onward!

The Squat:



How To:

  • Stand with feet a little wider than shoulder width apart, toes pointed slightly outward
  • Squat back and down until your quads are parallel to the floor
  • Keep your back flat, do not arch it
  • Keep your chest and head up
  • Be careful not to extend your knees past your toes
  • Drive through your heels when coming out of your squat
  • If you are using a barbell:
    • Use a wide grip (about as wide as your toes) with palms facing foward
    • Rest bar on upper back, do not place it on your neck
    • Make sure your elbows are high, pointing back instead of straight down

Here’s a great video for body weight squats:


And here’s a good, quick one I found for barbell squats:


The Barbell Deadlift:

deadlift technique


How To:

  • Stand with toes directly under the barbell, feet a little wider than hip width apart
  • Squat down and grasp barbell with an overhand grip (palms facing down), hands slightly wider than feet
  • Keeping a straight back, stand up by driving through your heels and hips
  • Keep your chest out and head up
  • Be careful not to round your shoulders – if you start to round your shoulders, you need to use less weight

Here’s a quick video showing proper form:


That’s all for now. Next time I see someone doing something ignorant in the gym, I’ll make sure you’re the first to know 🙂

Do you lift weights at all? Or do you stick to a mostly cardio workout regimen?

How much research do you do before you complete a workout that is new to you?

Did the weight room and all the lunks in it intimidate you at first, or was it just me? I’m fine on the intimidation part now, but I think most of those guys are still getting used to the idea of seeing a set of boobs in the weight area, at least that’s what their awkward glances tell me.

Sorry I didn’t post Tuesday. I suck, per the usual. But not as much as I used to. So there’s that. K bye.

– Rebekah

30 thoughts on “Proper Form

  1. My husband made a mini-weight room in our basement, so sometimes we lift weights together. It’s not my favorite thing to do though…I’m definitely more of a cardio girl, but I’ve been trying to do more strength training. Luckily, my husband is pretty knowledgeable about form (he does the research), so he’s showed me how to do it.

  2. mkay so I was very intimidated going to the testosterone filled weight section of my gym until i realized that i was actually lucky to be a girl in that area. because the fact is, those guys dont expect girls to know anything about weights, and if you do, well, the guys are either 1. intimidated 2. impressed 3. dont care one way or the other. i think its harder being a guy in that section because all those guys compete with each other and measure their muscles to other guys muscles and all that nonsense. girls can just go do their workout and get on with life. and btw, i want my body to look like chrissy zmijewski’s body when i grow up. k bye.

  3. I LOVE LIFTING; i could lift all day! i hate cardio but i do it because i know i have to (well-rounded fitness regimen and all blahblahblah).

    the weight room never intimidated me; i went to workout at my husbands gym which is a predominantly “bro” gym and they were all huge and grunty and testosteroney but i was like, “outta my way, bitches! mama needs to get her lift on!!” LOL

    if i don’t know about a certain move or how to do it, i’ll youtube the shit out of it and ask around/read up on the fitness forums. proper form is way more important than being able to crank out max reps at max weight the first time…what good is that if you totally hurt yourself?! quality over quantity is my motto; you workout right, you build muscles right.


    • We’re kindred spirits when it comes to lifting 🙂 Hahahaha. I wish I could have just been like “move it, douchebags!” I’ve gradually gotten sassier though. Like yesterday when someone put 32.5s where the 7.5s go. I picked them up and bitchily walked over and put them where they belong, rolling my eyes and muttering under my breath that it’s not THAT hard all the while. Such a brat. Quality over quantity for sure. Most people don’t get that.

  4. Woot Woot! I lift weights 😀 3 times a week. And I can honestly say, I heart it. I grew up watching my dad lift weights. We have a gym in our garage. And because I grew up watching, I kind of already knew proper form when I decided I wanted to lift some iron. Nerd Fitness is the one that kind of pushed me to lift. I love that website! Great post nonetheless :)!

  5. Love this!!! I used to have TERRIBLE form (like seriously how did I not hurt myself?!?!) until I started working with a trainer. I don’t see him often but when I do he makes sure to show me the correct form for all of the exercises in my plan and it is awesome! I really wish more girls would get their butts in the gym! Like unless you start drinking testosterone for breakfast you won’t bulk up like a man gahhhhh! But I do get that it can be intimidating at first.

    • It’s great that you have such an awesome trainer, bc some of the trainers I’ve seen don’t know what they’re doing either. For real though, I’m glad you have a good one who can teach you the right way and correct any bad habits before they form. I’ve had to learn by trial and error and tons of research after too much error, haha. Exactly! It kills me when I hear girls say they don’t want to look like a guy. Um, since when are you ever going to put in enough time and weight to ever even come close to looking like a dude?? That takes months, if not years, and going hard at it too. Haha, silly girls.

  6. This advice is awesome! I love weight training, especially back + lower body stuff. I’m always needing to remind myself to do squats properly for my knee’s sake!!

    • Thanks! Yes yes, your knees can take a hurting if your form is off. I’ve experienced that too. No fun. I love seeing my name when you post, btw! Well, it’s your name but I love that we have the same one 🙂 Sorry – I’m a loser. Meghan will tell you all about that.

    • Yeah, I’m comfortable now. I think part of it was that I go to LA Fitness and the guys there seem to be bit more egotistical than other gyms I’ve gone to. Anyway, girl, me too – definitely my workout of choice. Hopefully I’ll get to the impress level one day 🙂

  7. I definitely do not do enough strength training. And when I do, it is basic free weights, lunges, squats and that’s about it lol. I was never big on lifting although I used to take more strength training group fitness classes back in the day. After I had shingles, my ability to lift weightsbecame much more difficult.

    • That’s great! Lunges and squats are my favorites. Meghan and I just started doing an endurance class every Wednesday and it’s awesome. You should look for one to try out again. Awww 😦 I’m sure it did. Well, maybe you can work your way back up little by little.

    • Nerd Fitness is the greatest! Glad other people love it too 🙂 It didn’t last long, but I’m glad I’m past whatever that was, too. Thanks girl.

    • I tried doing just body weight squats when I was tired and kinda sick still and after like 3 I was done. No thanks. No use in doing something half assed bc of lack of sleep or a sickness. You won’t get anything out of it. Glad you know when to listen to your body and slow down 🙂

  8. lifting takes up most of my gym time these days. i’m a huuuuuge cardio girl, so cutting back to fit in more lifting time was tough at first, but i love it now. and i’m seeing way more gains now. 🙂

    it’s funny you noticed how a lot of those guys have poor form. i notice the same thing every time i’m at the gym and it drives me nuts! now, i’m not saying my form is 100% correct all the time, but i’m always mindful of correcting myself or asking my lifting bud to give my form the once over if i’m questioning it.

    • Me too! I see so much improvement that I didn’t see with just cardio. Glad you notice it too! Agreed. I always ask my boyfriend to let me know if my form is lookin wonky.

  9. I went through a phase where all I did was heavy lifting–and then that phase wore off pretty quickly. 😉 One of the first things I did do was read out the wazoo about form, though! And I was totally intimidated by the grunting sweating dudes, but after a while, I just got used to it. I hope it deflated their way too big ego a tad bit seeing a tiny Asian girl in their corner of the gym. 😛

    • Oh wow, I would never have thought since you and running are basically soul mates 🙂 I’m sure you were amazing at it, seeing as you’re amazing at running. Hahaha, I hope it did too. I’m sure you rocked it.

  10. Propert form is SO important in the gym (and everywhere else) and I SWEAR yoga has helped me. There are little tricks we do in classes that I’ve used at the gym and have noticed how much better it feels. Fabulous post my dear! No one looks cute doing a squat with a hunchback.

    • How cool! Seriously, because I mean, other than balance I haven’t really thought of other things about yoga that have helped me with lifting. You’ll need to tell me some of them when we come to your class (I promise we’re coming soon!). Hahaha, no they do not.

  11. I was totally one of those girl who was intimated by the weight section of the gym. I didn’t start lifting weight regularly until I took Body Pump classes. Weight lifting really changes your body composition and lord knows I need that with my stick figure!

    I actually hurt my back doing Body Pump because I didn’t have proper form with my squats nor did I have a strong enough core for the weight I was lifting.

    Since working out at home, I have slacked in weight lifting but I really want to do more soon. I will certainly refer back to this post for helpful tips on form. I’m a firm believer that good form is more important than how much weight you lift. Great post Rebekah, thanks! 🙂

    • It really does change your body, and in a good way! Aww that sucks that you hurt your back. I blame that on your instructor. A lot of the people in our body works class have terrible form but the instructor doesn’t correct them, so they’ll inevitably do it like that until they hurt themselves. When you decide to do it again, do your research and stand near a mirror so you can check your form while you’re executing the movements 🙂

  12. I LOVED MY WEIGHT ROOM! Yes, it was definitely intimidating at first and, yes, I was *always* the only girl. But, weight training was seriously the most empowering exercise ever. My body didn’t really change that much, but my self-esteem skyrocketed. I really do believe that, if you take the time to learn proper form, it can be one of the most physically and mentally beneficial things ever.

    I used to read Nerd Fitness a lot! I agree that he goes over some really great points about form. I also agree that I have seen some of the scariest shit ever in the gym, especially in the squat rack :-/

    Not sure if you have seen it, but Nerd Fitness also has some really great info about building your own bodyweight routine, too. I liked it a lot!

    I feel like I (finally) got my squat form down pretty solid, but I still can’t get the deadlift. I think it’s because I don’t use very much weight, so I have to bend too low to pick up the bar or something, but I can’t really do it without feeling it in my back immediately. Something to work on 🙂

    Thanks for posting all of these awesome tips and the PSA about being super conscious of your form!

  13. Thanks for posting this, the pics are so helpful! I was guilty of improper squat form until I moved to Australia and attended a bootcamp. I was so grateful that the trainer came up to me and helped fix my form! I have always been more of a cardio junkie until this past year. but I still find the weight section to be intimidating!

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