Is it OK to Sacrifice Exercise Technique?

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This post was influenced by a question I received the other day.

The summary of the question was: should technique suffer in the name of building strength.

This is a very complicated answer and my response was directed toward a specific scenario of the person.

Nevertheless I feel that this is something that boggles the thought process, and even the progress of people in the gym.

Strength training needs to be somewhat difficult in order to stress the body and adapt to these new demands. Conversely, training through a poor range of motion leads to a host of other problems.

People will land in both camps and have strong opinions in their preferred direction of this debate.


How do we know when to pick?

Every individual is different and there is no right answer for everyone or every exercise. I will try to assemble some guidelines to help clarify.

Is there a physical limitation preventing the movement?

There are cases where no amount of rolling, teaching, cueing, or dark magic is going to get someone into a better range of motion. Structure can limit mobility.

In cases of FAI, a bony impingement in the hip, the person should probably not bilateral squat or barbell deadlift from the floor anymore. Every time this person tries to push this range of motion they may be causing more problems than they are solving.

One of my main philosophies as a coach is that I want to pick the best exercises for the individual. I may love the deadlift, assuming someone can get into that position.

I have accepted that some clients will never squat and I can find plenty of exercises to provide a proper training effect. I can also tweak the range of motion to achieve proper stress.

In a case like this exercise technique may seem like it is suffering, but it is optimal for the individual.

What is the goal?

This is where we need to really focus our efforts.

A lot of time can be spent trying to nail a deep, ass to grass squat. That is great for those that have great mobility or really want to get into Olympic lifting.

Someone that just wants to get stronger or faster might not need to take the great amount of time that this requires.

If someone has 12 weeks to get as fast and strong as possible, there is no way that you can spend all of that time doing unloaded barbell and mobility work to get the squat deeper.

This is especially true when a parallel squat would get the job done. Only doing corrective work does not provide the stimulus to reach the goal.

Conversely, an aspiring Olympic lifter who cannot catch a clean in the hole needs to master that position before loading it up. It is a requirement for the task at hand.

The goal is always the most important and we need to get a training effect out of the time we spend in the gym.

To wrap up this conversation, the title of this posts asks “Is it OK to Sacrifice Exercise Technique?”

The answer: it depends.

We first look at the bigger picture and ask if there are any limitations that would change “textbook” form and then evaluate what the goal is.

If efforts are not going towards the end goal then they become a waste of time.

That being said, we cannot sacrifice exercise technique in order to load up the bar. We can, however, modify the exercise based on the individual.

Not everyone will be able to perform exercises by the book and that will require some attention.

Technique should still be mastered but expecting every individual person to perform exercises the exact same way ignores the “individuality.”

Do not sacrifice technique but be ready to modify based on a number of different factors.