Updated: Feb 21, 2019
There was this guy I knew once, a semi-professional footballer, who used to exercise at my local gym.
This man was physically fit, devoid of excess body fat, had high energy levels and was a model of balanced lean muscle. He also seemed to spend most of his time working his legs or lower body and always did so using a programme of slow, precise exercises that appeared to be precision-engineered especially for him.
In fact, his workouts were a model of focus and technique.
And they certainly got results.
Thinking back now, it’s clear to me that the workout regime the footballer was following was actually a version of Callanetics, which enjoyed a brief fad as a fitness trend following the success of the Jane Fonda workout in the 1980s (and which seemed to disappear from the fitness scene just as quickly as it first appeared).
For those unfamiliar with Callanetics, it was created by Callan Pinckney and involves the frequent repetition of small muscular movements and squeezes to improve muscle tone. Pinckney’s programme apparently had its origins in classical ballet and her argument, when launching it, was that popular exercises often only work the surface muscles of the body, whereas with Callanetics, the body's deeper muscles are also exercised.
Callanetics is precise and devoid of the adrenalin kick of high-impact aerobics. It is also an example of how to apply focus and technique to working out, in order to achieve measurable results.
As a Personal Trainer I spend a lot of my time instructing, encouraging and advising clients on how to exercise to get the outcomes they tell me they want to see. This training can involve my clients working up a sweat (all the time, actually) and developing their bodies into the form that is important to them. But what I also do, and what I think sometimes can get lost in the process of physical exertion on the gym floor, is to foreground for my clients the importance of using correct technique when exercising.
Correct technique in terms of working out is essentially the art of performing an exercise safely, correctly and in a way that delivers results when the exercise is undertaken in the right way.
When we exercise, a lot of the time we cannot see ourselves from an independent perspective and because of that we can be distracted from the importance of focusing on the exercise technique we are using in our effort to complete the exercise itself.
Even when working out in front of a mirror our eyes can be distracted from the monitoring of technique and our posture onto how we appear in a broader context, or to what is going on around us. Some people even shy away from working out in front of a mirror because they feel self-conscious.
But this mirror work is actually vital in understanding what our body is doing when we workout and what we should be doing when we exercise.
Working with a Personal Trainer (or, if not with a Personal Trainer, then with an experienced gym buddy) can be more helpful than a mirror, as it gives us an extra pair of eyes and an independent perspective to correct poor posture or any incorrect technique that we may be using (both of which, can get in the way of delivering the results demanded from an effective workout).
Such partners on the gym floor can also be motivational and good company during a demanding workout, which should also not be underestimated!
Whatever workout we choose, and regardless of the fitness goals we set ourselves, we should also learn, observe and implement good technique when exercising, if we want to make progress in the gym. And if it becomes a struggle to maintain a focus on the actual technique of the workout, then a fresh pair of experienced eyes, as above, can make all the difference.
So, if you want to get ahead when you exercise, learn the best technique for your workout, as with our friend the footballer, or get yourself an experienced gym buddy or Personal Trainer, if this is an option for you.
Because by doing so, you will precision-engineer your exercise and get the results you need from your workout.