Any exercise worth doing is worth doing right, but unfortunately many times we're not aware of when we're doing an exercise all wrong. Improper technique and poor form can not only sabotage the results you're trying to achieve with your workouts, but they can also put you at risk of injury as well. Some of the most common workout moves may also be some of the workout moves you're doing wrong, so it is important to know when you're coming up short in the technique department. Below are four workout moves that are easily botched.
Push-ups are perhaps the most famous bodyweight exercise on the planet, and there are so many variations that you can perform (e.g., incline, decline, with fists, wide grip, close grip, one-armed, etc.) that it can be difficult to know exactly what good form looks like. Some of the most common offending push-up moves are these:
- Allowing your back to sag down instead of keeping it straight
- Flaring your elbows too far out to the sides; they should never assume a "T" form (i.e., perpendicular to your body), but rather remain at about a 45-degree angle to your body.
- Rounding out your back so that your forehead actually dips down when descending
- Only going about halfway down
- Locking your elbows at the peak of the movement; even when extended, they should stay ever-so-slightly bent
A legit push-up should be done with your back straight, and with only your palms and the balls of your feet (or your knees) being in contact with the floor. Keep your hands a little wider than shoulder-width apart, and be sure to perform smooth, non-jerky movements.
When done correctly, squats are one of the most comprehensive full-body exercises you can perform. When done incorrectly, squats can be a source of pain and discomfort. Here are some common squat mistakes:
- Allowing the knees to extend beyond the toes
- Going up on your toes when squatting
- Rounding out your back
- Looking down instead of straight ahead
Make sure to keep your head up, and your eyes focused straight ahead when you perform your squats. Keep your feet as flat as possible, allowing most of the weight to rest on your heels. Try to keep your back as straight as you can, and make sure that you're not allowing your knees to extend beyond your toes, as this will put excessive strain on your patellar tendons. Your shins should remain as straight-up-and-down as possible. Go slow and deliberately at first to make sure your body is used to the proper form before you speed anything up.
3. Lat Pulldowns
This is probably one of the most commonly botched weight machine moves in existence. Common lat pulldown errors include:
- Gripping the bar with your hands too far apart
- Leaning too far back when pulling down
- Pulling down too far
- Pulling the bar behind your head
To grip the bar correctly, make a "football goalpost" with your arms (forearms perpendicular to the floor), and then simply reach up and grab the bar using this position. When pulling the bar down, try to lean back at an angle of no more than 15 degrees from your hips for better stabilization. Pulling the bar too far down will begin to engage your forearms more than your lats, so try to avoid doing that. Also, there is no need to pull the bar down behind your head, unless you enjoy damaging your shoulder joints.
4. Bicep Curls
These can be done with a barbell or dumbbells, but either way it's important to pay attention to good form. Here are some common bicep curl mistakes:
- Swinging the weights up and down
- Using the shoulders instead of the biceps to swing the weights up
- Leaning back or arching the back at the peak of the movement
- Curling the wrists at the top of the movement
When performing bicep curls, be sure to keep your movements as controlled and smooth as possible - go slow! If you're using your shoulders to swing the weights up, more than likely you're using too much weight; humble yourself and reduce the weight to the point where your biceps alone bear the brunt of the movement. Try to keep your back as straight as possible throughout the exercise, and avoid curling your wrists up when you reach the peak of the movement; this works the forearms more than the biceps. Keep your wrists in a neutral position in order to keep the focus on your biceps.
All of the above workout moves are fantastic exercises, but they must be performed correctly in order for you to reap the full benefits of doing them. By following the tips outlined above, you can avoid unnecessary injuries and experience better results from your workouts.