Are Weight Training Images 'Picture Perfect'? - Can You Really Use Them to Learn the Lifts?

Posted on 05 Apr 2012 20:06

By Eric Troy

A while back I made a post called Asinine Expectations. In one I said that it is a false assumption to expect your "form" to perfectly match someone else's form on a given complex movement. This is something I've come across with trainees again and again. They look at other people lifting, or worse, look at STILL IMAGES and think they are doing it wrong if they don't "match" when they do the exercise pictured.

Once, a came across an article entitled "Picture Perfect Weight Training Images" or something to that effect (the article has since disappeared), I had to call foul. According to this page, you should study images of exercise to learn "picture perfect" form. There were no images or links to images on the page but it could have certainly given a trainee the bum steer.

Heck, chances are a trainee could change his technique from right to wrong as a result of studying a picture. First of all I wouldn't trust an internet image claiming to portray perfect form unless it was from someone I knew (or knew of). But even if the person in the image is using good form that DOES NOT MEAN THAT YOU WILL BE A MIRROR IMAGE OF THEM

Trainees have a hard enough time when they try to use the mirror in the gym to judge their own form when moving. Using your eyes to look in a mirror tends to give you false spatial information. While you try to adjust your technique based on the mirror it interferes with your natural proprioceptive awareness. It shouldn't be a surprise. All the the movements you do well, like, say, walking, hopping, skipping, running you learned naturally.

Looking at another persons form will only give you a roundabout idea of how to go about it. But since each persons geometry is different the angles formed by their various body segments will be slightly different on the same movement. Your legs may be longer and your torso shorter. You could have longer or shorter arms. Etc. and so on. To learn the lifts properly you have to LEARN them. Not look at them.


The Clean Position

That is not to say, however, that exercise images are never useful or should NEVER be used. Look at it this way, even a moving video cannot teach you exactly how to move with a heavy weight. It's your center of gravity, after all. So a static image really doesn't stand a chance. But there are other things that images can be VERY useful for. A good example comes in this image depicting a barbell in the racked position of clean. This a lifter at the end of the clean phase of the clean and jerk. This is also the position the bar is held in for front squats. So if you, for instance, wanted to know what a "clean grip" was for a front squat, as opposed to a "crossover" or "Cossack" grip, this image would be a good reference.

Two other great example of useful images come from Jim Wendler's article 'Casting Your Wrists'. Open that page while your read the rest of this.

This first image shows only the 'wrist' being wrapped. The second shows what Wendler calls a cast wrist in which the wrist and the heel of the hand are wrapped, thus actually bracing the joint. This, in my opinion is also a good example of a problem in semantics. As many people look that the wrist as the end of their arm. But it is the JOINT, or articulation between the proximal carpal bones and the distal ends of the radius and ulna that makes up what we call the wrist "joint".

The wrist itself, or "carpus" from Latin, is actually the eight carpal bones distal to the radius and ulna and before the metacarpal bones of the hand.

So if you study the images logically you will see that the first image is just wrapping the arm and not actually providing much, if any support to the wrist.

That is, the "joint" is that region between the ulna and radius (the bones of the arm) and the carpal bones (the "heel" of the hand). So the first image really is just a wrap around the arm bones.

Before studying these images for a second it never even occurred to me that is may be important to point out the difference between the end of the arm and the WRIST as a region. Another score for the usefulness of images.

So the second image shows a way of actually providing support to the wrist. In most sports where wrapping the wrist is desired you will always find the wrap starting a few inches down the arm and then wrapping up onto the hand and around the thumb.

On a closing note, when it comes to images of exercise moments, many of those found on the web are of various athletes in the throes of competition where they are going for broke and lifting the heaviest poundages they are capable of. If you were watching them during the competition it would likely look elegant and perfect. But if you were to capture stills of the lift it may not be a picture perfect moment. This is sort of like when someone takes a candid photo of you at the precise moment you have a weird, googly eyed look on your face. Never to be noticed except for the camera's ability to immortalize one instant in time.

While these "moments" in a sequence of moments were exactly what was need to get the job done at that time in a competition, and perhaps even set record lift, if you isolate them and then emulate them it makes no sense. Because a lift is made up of hundreds of moments and minute adjustments..many of which the body makes without conscious effort. One moment glimpsed alone is not representative, necessarily, of how to get from point A to point B when training a lift.

Also, a great number of weight training pictures found on the net are from beginners who may have posted an image to their blog for the purpose of critique. To get help from others. The same is true for many of the Youtube videos. But this does not stop these same images from being posted as EXAMPLES by many of the self-proclaimed experts on the internet. Be careful. As you know any one can start a strength training site…even those who have never actually trained a single soul.

This page created 05 Apr 2012 20:06
Last updated 20 Jul 2016 23:43

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