The Importance of Technique

Fitness is something we've been told we have to do and we know we should do. More and more people are hitting the gym now to “pay their dues”. But at what price? What is the end goal?

Today, I went in for a personal workout. And a guy was practicing Olympic cleans and snatches. When done properly, these are awe-inspiring exercises that require strength, speed, and coordination. They are all the rage and many new “athletes” are incorporating them as part of their workout routine.

Stefanie Dröxler with a successful attempt (snatch) during third round of Austrian Weightlifting Bundesliga.  Isiwal/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0 [CC BY-SA 4.0 (]

Stefanie Dröxler with a successful attempt (snatch) during third round of Austrian Weightlifting Bundesliga. Isiwal/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0 [CC BY-SA 4.0 (]

I could see the telltale signs of someone who didn't know what he was doing. The bar was coming away from his body on the way up. He was lifting the bar entirely with his back and he was overarching his back at the top of the snatch. Either he had a bad coach or he was just trying to copy what he saw others doing without really understanding why the technique was important.

He was fatigued at the end and he probably felt like he was getting a great workout. But I wonder if he knew that he was potentially doing damage to his body in the process. He wouldn't feel the ill effects today; but over time, if he continued to lift this way, he might one day be hunched over with “arthritis” in his low back. Or if he got overly aggressive with his weight selection one day soon, he might hurt himself by “pulling” or “straining” something.

You see, for as different as our bodies may appear to be (height, weight, body composition, etc.), mechanically, they are all the same. They act in the same manner and are subject to the same laws of physics. So, for every exercise and each person, there is really, truly only ONE proper way to do it if you're trying to get stronger AND avoid any injury over your lifetime.

From the science of ergonomics, we know that there are three primary factors that cause the development of musculoskeletal disorders, like back pain, tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, osteoarthritis, bursitis, meniscal tears, stress fractures. numbing, tingling, or swelling. Those three factors are:

  1. Force

  2. Repetition

  3. Posture

Well, that’s a problem, isn’t it? Working out by its very nature involves Force (because we have to lift weight or pound the pavement to get fit) and Repetition (because we have to repeat hundreds or thousands of times to get the benefits).

This means that we must pay tremendously close attention to our Posture (or technique) in order to make sure that we don’t succumb to one of those musculoskeletal disorders above. It’s the only one of the three factors over which we have true control.

Wait a minute. You say you’ve already experienced some of those MSDs as a result of working out? Heck, every time I go to the gym, someone is telling me that they’re working through a bout with one of those MSDs! We don’t necessarily make the connection, but it’s almost definitely because we weren’t doing an exercise properly and we exposed our body to all three factors simultaneously. When that happens, your body could break down immediately or it could break down over time, depending on what the weakest link is. But the only way to slow the process down is to start removing exposure to those three factors. This is why when we finally visit the doctor, he/she tells us to take a break from working out. And the only way to prevent MSDs altogether is to improve the technique!

So looking at only today's workout is a very short-sighted way of looking at things. We should be doing today’s workout but thinking about how to prevent tomorrow’s MSD by executing the technique perfectly.

It's why I think of technique on a spectrum.


We should all actively strive for perfect technique every rep. Little deviations may be ok if they occur infrequently. But over time, they will lead to chronic, repetitive injuries. Bigger deviations lead to serious acute injuries. If our goal is to lead a pain-free life (and it should be!), we should aim to do the technique correctly every time. That means learning what correct technique is or hiring someone who does.

But in a fitness industry chock-full of 1-day certifications and “passionate” coaches trying to make a name for themselves, anyone can call themselves a fitness professional without really know what they're doing. It’s not uncommon to hear that technique isn’t that important because “doing anything is better than doing nothing”. But coaches and trainers say that because, let’s be honest, they probably won’t be there in 20 years when your pains start to kick in. That’s why it’s on each individual to seek out reputable, knowledgeable, science-backed, results-focused professionals. Posting half-naked photos on social media doesn’t make you a good coach.

This is one of the reasons why we started realfitness. We wanted to create a community of like-minded individuals who want to be fit today and maintain quality of life tomorrow. We want to share our experience with you to teach you how you can get the results you want.