Build More Muscle and Avoid Injury with Proper Lifting Form

Lifting form is super important in order to ensure progress. Read on to learn how to make sure you have proper lifting form.

Weight lifting can build massive muscle and serious strength. It can also cause debilitating injury if your form is lacking.

Good form during your lifting workouts maximizes muscle growth and prevents injuries. Bodybuilders, powerlifters and athletes alike agree on the importance of proper lifting form. The proper form provides a better muscle contraction and maintains symmetry.

If you want to get the most gainz from your workouts, you need to learn the correct way to lift weights. The wrong form will end up wasting time and effort at best. At worst, it will cause pain and put you on the shelf.

If you get injured, it can keep you out of the gym for weeks, months or even years. That will result in a lot of muscle loss and fat gain.

Read on to learn the proper lifting form basics to improve your results when you weight lift.

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Proper Lifting Form Basics

The Mayo Clinic says proper lifting techniques are essential for reducing injury. It is also key to building muscle and strength.

Incorrect form can also exhaust your body without providing any benefit. Doing exercises the wrong way will tire you out without making your muscles stronger. That is the epitome of wasting your time.

Here are some general rules of thumb for good form during your lifting workouts:

  • Use a spotter for heavy weight
  • Look straight ahead
  • Do not hold your breath
  • Shoulder blades back
  • Feet and knees in line
  • Feet shoulder width apart
  • Feet flat on the ground
  • Weight on heels
  • Knees with a slight bend
  • Slow or moderate repetition speed
  • Keep both sides even
  • Do not overcompensate with a stronger side
  • End set when form starts to falter
  • Stretch after workouts

There are exceptions for certain exercises like calf training or abdominal workouts. There are also much more specific proper lifting techniques for certain muscle groups.

Here are some of the muscle group specific and exercise specific recommendations.

Lower Back

If you want to strengthen your back without injuring your spine, good form is a top priority. Bodybuilding doctor Jason Highsmith says proper form can help prevent back injury.

Popular lower back exercises include hip bridges, stiff-legged deadlifts, and lower back extensions. Keep shoulder blades back or neutral during these exercises. This technique is important for posture and injury prevention.

Lower back exercises need at least a slight arching of the back. This helps to work the lower back muscles to build muscle, strength, and endurance.

Don’t arch or round the back too much or you could get a muscle strain or spinal injury.

Upper Back

Building a strong upper back is important for all weightlifters and bodybuilders. Strengthening upper back muscles including the lats helps to create the v-taper appearance.

Major upper back exercises include shrugs, rows, pulldowns, reverse flyes, and pull-ups.

Heavy bent over barbell and dumbbell rows are risky without a support platform. These exercises place a massive amount of strain on the lower back. Keep your back with a slight arch and shoulder blades back if you are going to partake in these exercises.

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Do your pull-ups, chin-ups, rows, and latpulldowns with full control. Going too fast and bouncing can cause injury to your shoulders, elbows, neck or back. Skip the Crossfit kipping pull-ups and do strict ones instead.

Perform reverse flyes with light weights and without any jerking movements. Do them slow and focus on maximizing muscular contractions.


Keeping the neck healthy is another top priority when you are lifting weights.

Only wrestlers, fighters and contact sport athletes use isolation neck exercises. Nobody should be lifting weights with their neck at the gym unless they are an elite athlete in a contact sport. Few people are looking for neck hypertrophy anyways.

There aren’t any neck related exercises for the masses. The only exception would be shrugs. Barbell or dumbbell shrugs can help to strengthen the neck if done right.

Always keep your neck in a neutral position. Look straight ahead and don’t strain yourself with weights that are too heavy.


The weight lifting form for chest and shoulder exercises is often times done wrong. It is also debated often by many in the bodybuilding community.

Top chest exercises include barbell bench press, dumbbell chest presses and chest flyes.

For most weightlifters, barbell bench press is the king of all chest exercises. Heavy barbell bench presses lowering all the way down to the sternum is the way most people do them.

It also ends up being the cause of a lot of shoulder and chest injuries. Lifting too heavy can cause torn pec muscles and injured rotator cuff muscles.

Men’s Journal doctors discuss pectoral tears and sternum fractures. They say they’re top concerns for weightlifters doing heavy barbell bench press. Part of this is due to the movement of barbell bench press, especially the bottom of the movement.

Lower down to about a 90-degree elbow bend instead. This way you remove a lot of unnecessary strain on pectoral and rotator cuff muscles. You will still build plenty of chest strength and size.

Dumbbell bench press and cable chest presses are also better for your joints.


Major shoulder exercises include shoulder presses, dumbbell raises, internal rotations and external rotations.

During shoulder raises a lot of people tend to lean or bounce. People lean back during the raised part and lean forward during the lowering part. This reduces the effectiveness of the exercise and can also strain your back.

Shoulder presses need a tight core and slight knee bend to help decrease strain on the spine.

Do your internal and external rotations with light resistance. These exercises can help strengthen and stabilize shoulders to prevent injury.


Everyone wants to build strong, muscular and defined arms. Not everyone realizes that it’s not as simple as busting out some curls.

Top bicep exercises include curls, hammer curls, and reverse curls. Leaning during curls or jerking to curl heavier weight doesn’t grow your biceps. It makes you look like an amateur and risks injury.

Top triceps exercises include dips, dumbbell triceps extensions, and cable triceps extensions. Do your dips in a controlled manner. Do not lean forward too much during cable extensions.

Wrist curls and reverse wrist curls can strengthen the forearms. Forearm work is best done with light weights at the end of a workout.

For arm exercises there is one top concern: keep your shoulders, elbows, and wrists in line. This helps to reduce the risk of injury and build more muscle.


Top leg exercises include squats, deadlifts, lunges, leg presses and calf raises.

Squats are the king of all exercises. Many weightlifters load up the weight and deep squat as low as they can. Unfortunately, that causes many knee problems.

Do not squat lower than parallel to the floor if you are dealing with knee pain. You can still get benefits by doing partial squats. The same thing applies to lunges and leg presses.

Keeping your hips, knees, and feet in line with each other for the most part is also very important. This helps to reduce the risk of injury, especially when it comes to your knees.

When it comes to calf training, the usual lifting technique is different. Calf training is about building up the muscle in the lower part of the leg.

Do your calf raises in a standing or seated position on a flat surface or off a step. Raise up and down in a controlled manner. This helps to avoid hurting your Achilles tendon or other related soft tissue.


Like calf training, training abs means some of the general lifting form basics don’t apply. Special form is a must to strengthen the ab muscles without damaging the spine.

It’s essential that you keep your lower back in a neutral position. You want to strengthen your abs and obliques, not put excessive stress on your spine.

Top ab exercises include sit-ups, crunches, planks, and leg raises.

Ab exercises don’t burn many calories. Most people aren’t looking for abdominal hypertrophy either. For these reasons, use light weights or use body weight for abs.

Make More Gainz

There are many other proper lifting form tips for those with specialized goals. Read more training articles to learn more about boosting your workout results.