Monkey See… Monkey Do

I admit it.

I like to watch people. I like to observe what people do and understand why they do it.

This is most fun in the gym. Yup. I watch people in the gym. I am always curious to see what exercises they are doing and if they are doing them correctly.

Recently, I discovered an interesting phenomenon in the gym which really helped clarify a question I had been asking myself.

The question is… Why do we see so many people in physical therapy who hurt themselves in the gym? People are making the effort to improve their physical health and condition… and they get hurt for their efforts? Why does this happen?

The answer came to me last week as I observed some fellow gym members. The first one was a really fit 25 year old man who was using one of the machines completely wrong. He was doing the exercise in such a way I was shocked he didn’t hurt himself. But, alas, at 25 his body can withstand the punishment of poor mechanics and technique.

Just as he finished and moved on to the next machine a 50+ year old woman (not in great shape) got on the machine and proceeded to do the exercise exactly the same way!

I couldn’t resist. I approached her and asked her if that is the correct form to use during the exercise. Her response, “that guy did it and he is in great shape. If it works for him it will work for me.”

There you have it. The reason so many people get hurt in the gym? Monkey see, Monkey do.

Why bother to learn from an actual expert (physical therapist, exercise physiologist etc.) how to properly do an exercise if you can just observe random people who look like they are in shape… and copy them?

I’ll tell you why. Because many of these people have no clue what they are doing! And even if they do… is it the right exercise for you? Are you clear on your objective and how this exercise furthers that objective? Do you possibly have a complicating factor that makes that exercise wrong for you? Maybe the guy bench pressing has the objective of building huge pecs while your objective is improving your posture. If so, maybe you should keep watching that guy…and do the opposite of whatever he does!

At Forward Physical Therapy we understand that learning how to correctly perform an exercise is the most important step in beginning to do that exercise. We want to help as many people as possible exercise safely to prevent injury and achieve their fitness goals. But we realize that it simply isn’t practical to stand around the gym and correct people when they make mistakes. (Plus, the gym’s won’t be too happy with us).

So we decided… there must be a better way. And there is.

We are dedicated to helping our patients and former patients (as well as anyone else who is interested in learning) exercise correctly so they won’t injure themselves. To that end, we have started a series of photos and videos to show the proper technique for a variety of exercises. We will cover topics like stretching, strengthening, core stability, balance, lifting, carrying, pushing and pulling. Each picture will show either the correct or incorrect form and each video will be short and to the point. No need to set aside an hour for a course on 16 ways to stretch your hamstrings! Just quick and easy tips on effective ways to do specific exercises.

We will be posting one video/photo per week and look forward to your feedback!

CAUTION – Of course, not every exercise is ideal for everyone. If you are unsure if you should be doing a particular exercise, consult a physical therapist prior to trying it.