It’s amazing to me that every time I walk into a health club how many people have absolutely terrible form while resistance training, it actually makes me cringe. I would say it is over 95% of the club members. Isn’t the point of going to the gym to get healthy, more fit, and to generally feel better overall? Yet people lift weights while they’re swinging like a bunch of monkeys. Most of the time, instead of taking the time to learn how to lift correctly, people are butchering their own bodies, and actually setting themselves up for injury.
If you asked the majority of people working out, what the term dynamic scapular or joint stabilization means, or how it effects every movement you do while holding weights, most likely they wouldn’t know what you were talking about.
That being said, I’m going to share a simple and easy concept to remember. It’s called the “Five Point Contact Principle”. Every time you go to lift some weights. It will help you get on the road to better form, and it is a simple and smart concept to remember.
To maximize stability and spinal support while weight training establishing a “Five Point Contact” will maximize proper mechanical function and reduce the risk of injury, and it will enable an athlete to maintain proper body alignment during an exercise. Which in turn places an appropriate stress on muscles and joints. Establishing a stable position while weight training is critical.
The five point contact is used during any seated or supine (lying on back, face up) exercise, as well as any standing exercise as well. This is achieved by maintaining the following five points to stay in contact with the bench or floor: (while standing it is held by the same proper body positioning)
1) Back of head
2) Both shoulder blades/upper back (scapula)
3) Buttocks/ sacral area
4) Left foot
5) Right foot
Starting from the top, this keeps the head in a neutral position, making sure that the chin is not tucked down and therefore rounding the shoulders forward. If keeping your head in contact with the bench seems like a stretch and is not comfortable then keep head neutral and look straight ahead.
The shoulders are counted as one unit and should be in contact with bench and as flat as possible as long as they are not in a shrug position and rounded forward. Tucking your chin down in turn rounds the shoulders putting you in a undesirable position to push or pull weights, and will set you up for a neck, shoulder, or lower back injury because of the excessive rounding of the upper back. Please note that there are a few exercises that require one to round or shrug the shoulders intentionally, such as shoulder shrugs, serratus raises, and scapular retractions.
Rounding of the shoulders during lifting causes poor scapular stability and in time will promote shoulder injuries.
The buttocks/sacral area contact maintains normal lumbar lordosis while training and prevents over arching the lower back, and both feet should stay in contact with either the bench or floor. For example, lifting the butt up off the bench while bench pressing is a common mistake and could lead to shoulder and back injury.
The lower back should not be forcefully pushed into bench or floor during any weight bearing exercise, however, while performing abdominal exercises rounding of lower back is necessary. So there is a deviation away from this principle while performing abs, but it does play a role as far as not going into excessive lordosis. The only time this rule should be broken is while performing abs.
Standing resistance exercises follow the same guidelines except there is no bench behind your back. You want to keep the head in a neutral position with chin level to floor, looking straight ahead. Keep shoulders back and not shrugged. The weight held in hands should be supported by muscles of shoulders and upper back, not just hanging there pulling on your joints. Maintain neutral lower back (lumbar lordosis) with tight abdominal muscles.
The abdominal contraction will minimize body swinging while pulling or pushing weights, and keep the knees slightly bent, not locked out by initiating the bend at the hips by going into a partial squat position. Bend the hips slightly and let the knees follow to slight flexion of about 15 degrees. The knees are along for the ride following the lead of the hips.
Keeping this five point contact in mind every time you weight train will minimize injury to your neck, back, shoulders and knees, and promote better spinal alignment and posture according to the NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association).
This will certainly bring you closer to having better form, but it is just one part of a broad spectrum of proper weight training mechanics. If you are serious about your exercise program you should consult a NSCA, Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS).
Jon Torerk, CSCS