Among personal trainers and fitness buffs alike, the “perfect form” for certain exercises seems to be an elusive ideal, and one that we’re all encouraged to strive towards. However, the truth is that the notion of the perfect form is a fundamentally flawed one, simply because movement in the body is a complex interaction between the nervous system, muscles, and bones rather than a single cut-and-dried occurrence.
To begin with, we actually have fairly limited control over our movements. True, we may be able to repeat the same movement over the course of a set, but minute differences in the way our muscles move with each rep means that each movement is unique. In fact, focusing on consciously controlling individual components of movements may interfere with our own processing, reducing efficiency and performance.
This phenomenon, coined “repetition without repetition”, means that there’s no truly perfect way to perform a movement, but rather infinite perfect ways to get the job done within given constraints: the environment, your own body, and the task at hand. Therefore, rather than search in vain for the perfect form, focus on achieving greater motor control by building your proprioceptive sense, or body awareness.
Think of it this way: the greater range of motion you can actively control, the more options you have for any given movement. Something to note, however, is that your proprioceptive sense is just like any other muscle in the body, and has to be exercised in order for it to function at its optimum.
Different individuals also possess unique anatomies and bone morphologies, to the effect of being something of a bio-signature that separates one person from another. While the differences are typically slight, this can manifest themselves significantly in movement, as evidenced by how trained athletes move differently, despite being at a similar level of training. The differences in movement is necessitated by the fact one must move in way that is considered optimal for the body structure; force-feeding a technique that’s sub-optimal can and will result in injury.
Focusing solely on achieving a form that was arbitrarily decided to be “perfect” narrows your body’s range of function and makes you susceptible to injury, but maximising your functional possibilities through natural movement will be far more effective in the long run. Tweak the movement to suit you, not the other way around!