Learning a lift takes time. Whether you’re perfecting your deadlift or trying to learn how to snatch, videos can help you understand where you are on that journey. Weeks or months from now, you’ll wish you had a better record of how you learned, so get out that tripod.
When you take videos of your lifts, you’re in a better place to ask a coach or a trusted friend to critique your form. You can also look back on your videos to see how much you’ve improved, which can be highly motivating when you feel like you aren’t making much progress. Here’s how to use videos to their best advantage:
Take a good video in the first place
First, think about the angle you’re taking your videos from. It’s tempting to just prop your phone against your water bottle because you’re shy about showing the whole gym that you’re videoing yourself, but the resulting videos won’t be very useful.
So get yourself a folding tripod—mine is a model similar to this one—and stick it in your gym bag or your pocket. Or if you have a gym buddy who’s willing to film you, that can work too.
The perfect angle may vary by the lift, and if you’re sending videos to a coach, be sure to ask what they prefer. But in general, a good angle will do the following:
- Show your entire body, head to feet, even if it’s just an upper body lift
- Be roughly hip height, so the camera isn’t looking up or down at you (this especially helps when judging depth on squats)
- Show you at a 3/4 angle, neither head-on nor directly from the side.
- Show the weights on the bar, if possible
Side views often seem like a good idea, but the weight plates themselves (in, for example, a deadlift) tend to block the view of your body position. If you want to take a specific angle like this, do it in addition to a 3/4 view, not instead.
Immediately after your set, trim the video. You’re waiting a few minutes between sets anyway, so just open up the video, hit “Edit,” and drag the edges of the clip to eliminate the time you spent setting up the camera and adjusting your belt.
Be thoughtful about whom you show them to
When you first have form-check videos to share, you might be tempted to send them to all your friends or post to a group or forum for feedback. But not every good lifter is a great coach, and even if you get good advice, different people may disagree on what you should work on first.
Instead, pick someone who you have reason to believe is good at evaluating and coaching lifts, and send the video to that person only. And if you post the video just for general viewing—on your Insta, say—be aware there are people who might jump in with advice. If they’re not your pre-identified trusted friend or coach … ignore them.
What you can learn besides technique
I use videos during my workouts, especially if my coach isn’t around, just to check in on how I’m doing at avoiding bad habits. I don’t expect to discover some new revelation about my form; I just use these videos to remind myself what to focus on. For example, if I’m warming up for snatches and I see my feet jumping back on every rep, I’ll do some sets pretending my feet are glued to the floor.
It’s also satisfying to notice when you do something right. Form checks aren’t always about spotting mistakes; they can also help you see strengths, and notice whether you’re being more consistent about fixing your mistakes. I always take note if I’m videoing a lift and hit a PR, or if my coach says “nice rep!” I favorite those videos, and I try to take a minute to reflect on what made that lift successful. Not just what happened during the lift, but how did I set up for it? What cues was I thinking about at the start?
What to do with all these videos
You don’t have to save every form-check video, but it’s good to have a bit of an archive. I used to organize mine by workout, but that got a bit unwieldy.
Instead, organize them by lift. I have albums for bench, squats, deadlifts, snatches, clean and jerks, and for each of the weird lifts for which I’ve spent significant time working on technique.
Sometimes progress seems slow, but it’s nice to be able to go back and say: what did my lifts look like six months ago? A year ago? If your videos clearly show the weight on the bar, you can see the weights go up over time, or see that you used to struggle with 200 pounds while now you do it smoothly.
I also find it interesting to look at all the details in a video. What shoes were you wearing? Had you started wearing a belt, or did that come later? Which gym did you lift at? And hey … are your shoulders bigger?
If you’ve been lifting for a while, you’ve certainly made a lot of progress in one way or another. Take a minute to take and organize your videos, and give yourself a chance to appreciate how far you’ve come.