Training is a time to focus on movement quality first and foremost. Technique and form should always be prioritized with no exceptions. Training is a time to dial in movement, and the quality of movement should not be compromised by adding load, speed, volume etc. It does not matter what kind of training you are doing, the same principles apply. Movement quality is always at the base of the pyramid and should come before other variables. Regardless of the level of training you do, injuries should not occur at the gym, and movement quality should never be sacrificed.
Movement always comes first, it is at the base of everything we do physically. You cannot build strength, speed, power or endurance without moving in the first place. All too often, people make the critical error of trying to build strength, speed, or power on top of poor or inadequate movement patterns – this is a recipe for disaster. One of two things will happen when sacrificing movement quality for additional capacity: plateaus or injury/pain. A funny thing happens when a person always prioritizes movement quality and technique in their training: they keep improving and they stay healthier. Adding load to a movement tests the integrity and robustness of the movement. Loading a movement demands additional stability, control, and precision in order to complete the movement in the same fashion. This is where true strength and power comes from – the brain is solidifying movement pathways that are being challenged by adding training variables like load or speed. This takes time, consistency, and effort, but doing it the right way will pay off in the long run.
If additional load changes a movement pattern in training, you are dealing with too much load or a deficient pattern. Let’s use the barbell back squat as an example: A squat with an empty bar should look no different than a squat with 100, 200, 300 or 500 pounds on the bar in terms of movement quality. Sure, the speed of the movement might change, and the quantity of reps might change…but the integrity, depth, and quality of the squat should not. This point is often missed in training – someone may have a ‘perfect’ squat with 135 on the bar, but start to squat differently with each jump in weight they make. Never let the weight dictate the quality of the movement. World-class strength athletes will always prioritize movement quality and technique in training, as it’s the only way to become world-class strong. If you watch a world-class power lifter or weightlifter train, you will see perfection and focus with each set. A good example of this is the Chinese weightlifting Lu Xiaojun – some of his world record lifts look like they are done with complete ease, and are the exact same as his warm-up sets in training.
The nervous system controls everything we do. If the nervous system does not feel safe, it will not grant you strength. Strength, speed and power are granted to you by the nervous system when it feels that you are comfortable and you are not risking injury or harm. It’s priority is to keep you alive and prevent you from getting injured. Training is an opportunity to cultivate good movement and discipline your nervous system by gradually stressing it and creating a stress response/adaptation effect. It is a chance to work on movement stability (control in the presence of change) in a controlled environment. The gym should be viewed as a lab, with each training session focused on improving movement integrity and quality. Moving better is an ongoing process, and there is always room for improvements to be made. Injuries or pain should not happen as a result of training, as training is meant to help your performance in other areas and not hinder it. Smart and focused training with an emphasis on movement will not only eliminate injuries, but will also get you stronger, faster, and better in the long run. Better movement = better control/stability = more perceived safety = less nervous system threat = more strength.
Train smart – always move well.