To keep up with some basic exercise, I've been regularly doing a fixed number of pushups (increasing a little over time).

The quality of my form is admittedly quite sloppy, I'd not say they are "cheating" (where you only move the top half of your body, or even just bob your head up and down, I'm sure you know the sort!). But they aren't slow and controlled either - I'm not lifting my body 100% to straight arms - and moving it all the way down either (maybe ~75% of the motion at a guess).

While the same number of fully controlled pushups is obviously harder then less controlled movement, is there a strong argument to favor controlled exercise assuming you're equally as tired after both?

Or is this simply different exercise? As 'crunches' are different to full 'sit-ups'.

I'm asking this because for me it's motivating to set a number and reach it every time, If I'm tired I have worse form, if I'm feeling energetic I have better form. But at least it keeps the exercise regular and it gives me some goal to reach. However I'm wondering if poor form could be harmful in some way, or if there are significant reasons to force myself to do less reps with better form.


Exercise form is something that seems to be invariably related to Range of Motion (ROM). Although they are two separate concepts, they tend to be mentioned together since form usually affects ROM. Intuitively, one would expect that “bad form” (ie. Sloppy) can lead to injuries since the movement tends to be fast, not controlled, and, the movements jerky. I, personally, would not risk form break for the sake of reaching a rep goal simply for the potential of injury. It becomes more important if you utilize bad (sloppy) form while handling free weights.

There is, however, a study that partial range of motion may provide some benefit. The study, An analysis of full range of motion vs. partial range of motion training in the development of strength in untrained men used the bench press (similar movement to your push up) to gauge the effectiveness of ROM on that particular movement. The study concluded:

“These findings appear to suggest that partial range of motion training can positively influence the development of maximal strength. Therefore, those involved in the strength and conditioning profession can confidently including this method as an adjunct to their normal training protocols when working with individuals similar to those found in this investigation. It is suggested that additional research be conducted to further establish the effectiveness of partial range of motion training in developing maximal strength. “

The one thing that is not mentioned in the study is whether the participants were using controlled (strict) form. Since they were under supervision, I would assume that the answer is yes.

Lastly, using bad form tends to reduce the likelihood that supporting muscle groups (in your case, triceps, deltoid) receive sufficient supplemental work. In the long term, I would argue that using good form is more likely to assist you in achieving your goals.

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