What Is A Movement Compensation

Throughout my blog's you will see me referring to compensations and what to look for when exercising. But what the hell is a compensation? 

To put it simply, a compensation is something “funky” happening in a movement which you may not be aware of.  The “funky” movement is self-learned unknowingly, may take some time to correct and is referred to as a pattern or sequence of movement.

If you’ve done 500 repetitions or an exercise with “funky” movement then you should expect to be performing 3 times as much to get out of that funky movement i.e. 1500 good repetitions to eradicate the 500 bad ones.

So how does this “funky” compensation movement happen you ask? 3 main issues:

1.      Tightness –tight calf’s may limit your squat depth

2.      Weakness – the weight is too heavy

3.      Motor Pattern – how many times have you performed the exercise to master it

Everyone has a compensation as no one, not even me, is perfect. Being able to identify them is critical. See if you can find the “funky” movements going on below:

Did you manage to identify the ankle, knee, hip and shoulders out of optimal position, the weight shift, the core rotation and failure and the hyper extension of the neck? Did you to see these “funky” movements?


It can be very hard to see these compensations if you don’t have a trained eye. You have to watch yourself perform movements through video, watch others perform the movement and understand the compensations. Here are some reasons why it is important that you are aware of your compensations:

1.     Reduce the risk of injury – what you practice in the gym will transfer to your event (discussed later on in the article)

2.     Joint health – healthier shoulders/hips/ankles

3.      Exercise selection – a box squat before a back squat

4.     Progression of exercise – increase or decrease the weight, speed or repetitions

5.     Staying fitter and healthier for longer

The above photos a friend of mine and is happy for me to share it with everyone, he just asked if I could blank out his face. A small disclaimer here, this isn’t someone I was training or have ever trained in the weight room.

As you can see the biggest compensation is the right knee. Doing this movement once, twice or even 100 times may not lead to injury. However, this athlete went on to injure his right Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) playing sport (a knee injury). One of the problems was that it wasn’t identified and corrected.

The “funky” movements you practice in the gym/fitness class/bootcamp/personal training are patterned and ingrained so that when you run a marathon, play tennis, football, walk upstairs or even play with your kids in the garden you should try to move with minimal compensations to reduce the risk of injury.

Now that I have told you about these compensations I bet you’re wondering how you spot yours?  Well the best thing to do put a photo up on the your Instagram and tag @goodformtraining in and I will comment and give feedback. You can also contact me directly here. Keep reading the blogs where we discuss certain movements and what compensations you should be looking for.