Thursday, July 7, 2011
Mirrors get a bad rap in the gym. The commercial gyms have mirrors but the private facilities don't have them. It's reasoned mirrors compensate for lack of bodily awareness and it can be developed by eliminating them. I once read Robert Roman had his lifters train blindfolded because he believed we overly rely on visual information.
In the past I've criticized mirrors myself. However, they're not entirely bad. It becomes a problem when a person stares at them in an awkward direction. It compromises the neck position. Examples include craning your head up in the deadlift or looking towards the side during a set of rows. I remember one time I saw a guy benching and he was pulling his head up to look at himself.
So when is the mirror appropriate? I believe when the trainee has to iron out any off-balanced discrepancies in movement. The most obvious scenario is when one side of the body is doing more work than the other - like an arm going higher than the other in the overhead press or rising faster on one side of the squat. Another case can be when one hand or foot is rotated more than the opposite side. With the mirror's aid, you can cue yourself to fix the problem.
A recent situation of mine was while I coached a friend in the snatch and clean. Since we were using a broomstick, there wasn't a way to place it at the proper starting height. I told him when his hips were low enough at the necessary starting height. But, I wouldn't be with him if he practiced alone. I told him to use a mirror from a side view to know when his hips were at the correct level.
Of course he wouldn't be staring at himself that long, just a quick glance to the side. Over time with practice, whatever the problem is should be taken care of and assistance from the mirror gradually decreased then eventually eliminated.
Once in a while it can be used for fun and variety - as long as you're not doing any harm (i.e., the neck).