Some Things Are More Important Than Form

Confession: One of the only websites that I check on a daily basis is  In the last two years I’ve become obsessed enamored with mountain biking, and Pinkbike gives me a daily fix.  This morning I was reading about the new Team Specialized Gravity, featuring current UCI Downhill World Champ, Loic Bruni.  This dude is FAST.

As I read words and viewed pictures, I paused to ponder a particular one.  Here it is, from photographer Dave Trumpore:


A few years ago, here’s what my gut reaction to this picture would have been:

  • Who the hell presses while sitting on a Stability ball?
  • He’s substituting spinal extension for shoulder flexion.
  • His wrists are passively extended by the kettlebells; I’m sure that feels great. (Note sarcasm.)
  • He’s relying on cervical flexion in the absence of appropriate thoracoscapular movement.
  • Seriously, pressing on a stability ball? What year is this?!? What a disadvantage he’s at with that exercise choice.

Yup, that’s right guys.  There are initial observations that I made, and then a thought came to me:

That picture is of Loic Bruni, the UCI Downhill World Champion, the winner of arguably the most important downhill race of the year.  He was captured in action during an exercise that is part of a strength training program, that is part of a training program, that is part of his off-season training, that’s preparing for the upcoming World Cup season… his form is just not that important.

I don’t personally know Loic, but I feel safe to say that his overhead pressing technique is not at the top of his priority list.  My guess is that it’s defending his World Championship, competing for the overall title, and having fun while doing it.  He’s trying to get better.

Consider why you are working out: Is it to be great at chin-ups?  Is it to have impeccable kettlebell swing technique?  I doubt it.

We don’t exercise to get good at exercise, we exercise to get good at life.

I’ve adapted this quote from a saying used by Emily Fletcher of Ziva Meditation.  She used the same line during a recent course I took with several of my MFF team members, and I remember thinking, “Oh, YES! That’s it.” (More on meditation in the future.)

I don’t know very many people who say, “Harold, today I want to work on a symmetrical shoulder mobility test.” Instead, the archetype of goals is, “Today I want to feel like I’ve accomplished something, or feel like I’m working towards accomplishing something bigger.”


I’m sure that other trainers can relate to this: There are times when we put technical proficiency ahead of personal success, and those feelings of accomplishment have some clouds over them.  I’d venture that if you’re a personal trainer who thinks they don’t do this, then you absolutely do.

If you’re not a personal trainer, indulge me this: Take a moment to consider why exactly you’re following the fitness plan you’re following.  Is it to be really good at fitness?  Not likely.  It makes far more sense that we want to feel better, and know that fitness is a great tool for just that.  That doesn’t mean that being “good” at fitness is more important than feeling accomplished as a result of your actions.  I mean, how often do we try so hard to be “good” at fitness that we feel like absolute crap because of it? What the hell does “good” at fitness even  mean?!?

Let’s look at an example when being good is relative.  We started this chat with some mountain biking, and we’re going to end it with some mountain biking.  I’ve ridden in the last two King of the Mountain Enduro races at Mountain Creek Bike Park, in New Jersey.

  • In 2014, my stage racing total was 32:30.93. I came in 19th out of 24 riders, beating a whopping 22% of the field.
  • In 2015, my stage racing total was 32:55.  I came in 19th out of 24 riders, again beating a whopping 22% of the field.

It looks like I got 24 seconds slower, and I did… except that in 2015, I rode an additional 5th stage.  That’s one more pass down the mountain.  That means that on those other four stages, I may have actually ridden way faster; I just can’t tell from my placing or time.  What I can tell you, is that I felt a whole lot better preparing for and riding in the 2015 race, and that sense of accomplishment is entirely unmeasurable.


Sure, I may thinking I have prettier pressing posture than Loic Bruni, but I also doubt that I’ll be faster than him on a bike anytime soon.  That’s great, because that’s not the point for either of us.  Feeling accomplished is essential to our humanity, and if we get bogged down in our exercises, we lose track of what’s really important.

When we’re too focused on being good at movement, fitness, or performing in the gym, we may lose sight of the fact that “We don’t exercise to get good at exercise, we exercise to get good at life.”

6 Replies to “Some Things Are More Important Than Form”

  1. Harold, totes appreciate the check in automatic judgement. Also, appreciate focusing on personal success versus some normative and generally esoteric movement perfection. Love love love using the gym to get better at life.
    I would add to those sentiments that form is always important, because form should be a choice. If Loic was pressing that way for a particular reason and with the intention of doing so, good on him. If he was pressing that way because he has to, as a result of whatever variety of tightness, weakness, lack of knowledge, etc., then it is okay to critique and judge that effort, and ultimately to encourage him to work on his limitations to unlock greater potential in his game. If Loic was pressing that way because he derives great fun and pleasure from such movement, good on him. But if he is training to better himself in his sport, I know we both could list a variety of reasons why fixing the issues you mentioned could benefit his position on the bike.
    BTW, loved meeting you this past weekend at the Lab.

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