"How long should I exercise? How many reps should I do? What are the best exercises for my butt?"
These are the questions that you'll hear over and over again from newbie gym goers. But no matter how many hours or minutes you log in for your daily workout, your fitness trainer will always emphasize one important thing: the practice of proper form.
There's a reason why your trainer will straighten your back when you lift weights or ask you to bend deeper when you squat—and it's not just to make your life a tad more miserable. Proper form not only helps you get the results that you want, but it also lowers your risk of getting injuries that might derail your progress. Plus, having proper form would also make you look less amateur and more like a pro, hence avoiding those "what-on-earth-are-you-doing?" looks from your fellow gym patrons.
Ready to hit the gym? Here's a list of how to avoid some of the most common exercise form mistakes that you might be committing.
13 Hunching Over Cardio Machines
Using treadmills and stationary bikes might be pretty straightforward, but you'll see a lot of people having bad posture while working out in these machines. They tend to hunch over, especially when they're already fighting fatigue. Aside from causing back and neck pain, bad posture also promotes bad habits that might give you lifelong functionality issues.
To prevent this, avoid using the rails unless you're having trouble balancing on the machine. This will tighten your core and automatically help you keep a relaxed, straight posture while you work out. If you really need to hold the rails, don't turn your hand inwards to prevent your elbows from bowing out and your shoulders from hunching.
Just think of it this way: If you can no longer maintain a good posture, then it's time to rest.
12 Overextending When Doing Overhead Presses
Whether you're lifting a 100-pound barbell or just two 3-pound dumbbells, overhead presses are great for strengthening your upper body and getting a full-body workout. However, there's a danger of overextending your body when you do this workout.
You know you're guilty of this when you arch your back too much so that your ribs pop out as you lift your weights high up over your head. This move strains your back and also puts you at risk for shoulder injury.
A better way to do this exercise is to make sure that your knees are slightly bent as you press the weights toward the ceiling. This keeps your ribs down and distributes the pressure evenly to your lower and upper body.
11 Squatting Not Low Enough
If done right, squats target the largest muscles in your body and help you burn calories even when at rest. But many people dread doing squats and as a result, they tend to do it half-heartedly, bending just a little on the knees and not squatting at least parallel to the floor.
If you don't squat low enough, you're limiting the strength and size that you can potentially build in your legs. You might also hurt your knees in the process, especially if you're lifting heavy weights, since the weight would stay on your knees and not shift onto your hips until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
When you do squats, brace and tighten your core so that you're able to go low and take full advantage of the move's benefits.
10 Using Momentum When Working Out The Abs
Have you found yourself using your arms to gather momentum while doing crunches? While it certainly makes the exercise easier, it doesn't target the muscles that you're trying to work out in the first place, hence making your ab workout pointless.
Trainers will usually ask you to cross your arms over your chest when doing crunches or sit-ups. Just do as they say to avoid doing rock-n-roll sit-ups that don't benefit your abs. To know if you're doing it right, you should be able to feel a tightness in your core, hip flexors, and back. Don't put your hands behind your head to avoid straining your neck as you go up.
9 Taking Small Steps During Lunges
Lunges might seem easy if you're used to taking just a small step back, but what you probably don't know is that this causes too much pressure on your front knee. Not only does it put you at risk for getting tendon strains, but it also makes you more predisposed to developing arthritis in the long run.
Watch any YouTube video on doing proper lunges and the trainer will always tell you that your front knee shouldn't go over your toes. To do this, always take a big step back so that your front heel is about two feet in front of your back knee as it bends toward the floor.
8 Jogging On Your Heels
This is one simple mistake that many people don't realize they're making. They jog noisily on their heels, which puts pressure on the ankles, knees, and hips. This can eventually lead to ankle injuries, shin splints, and knee pain, especially with constant repetition. It also doesn't help much in terms of calorie burning since it makes you tired easily before you can max up your endurance.
Instead of jogging on your heels, make sure that you land softly on the balls of your feet like when you skip rope. It's like trying to run as quietly as you can. This trains your body to absorb the shock from the ground, helping you prevent injuries.
7 Craning Your Neck And Looking Up
If your PE teacher taught you to lift your chin and look up at the ceiling when doing squats and deadlifts, then it's time to ditch that outdated thinking. Every time you crane your neck, you are impeding the ability of the brain to communicate with your muscles because you're closing the nerve transmission along your spine. Plus, it also heightens your risk for sustaining neck injuries.
To remedy this habit, pretend that you have an apple stuck between your chest and chin that you don't want to drop. This will keep your neck straight and your eyes looking forward rather than upward.
6 Rowing Without Using Your Shoulders
Dumbbell rows might not look so hard, but this is one of the most common exercises where people make mistakes. They let their elbows travel too far behind their ribcage, thus missing out on the benefits of strengthening their backs and improving their shoulder health.
The best way to make sure that you don't commit the same mistake is to imagine pinching a pencil between your shoulder blades as you reach the top of the row. Let your shoulder blades glide inward over your ribcage to make sure that your shoulders and back are doing the exercise, not just your arms.
5 Wrong Hamstring Stretches
You might have been taught to bend over and let your whole body weight dangle while you reach for your toes during a hamstring stretch, but this puts approximately 600 pounds of pressure on your spine. Holding a stretch like this for a minute can make your spinal discs vulnerable to rupture.
To remove the load off your spine, sit down while you reach for your toes. This stretches your hamstring muscles in a seated position, which is much safer than standing up. You can also opt for deep lunging stretches and yoga pigeon pose, which opens your hip flexors and gives your tight hamstrings a little rest.
4 Using Your Arms During Kettlebell Exercises
Kettlebell swings are explosive exercises that target the triple extension at your hips, knees, and ankles. It also helps isolate your hips and strengthen your core while keeping your shoulders safe.
Keep in mind that the exercise is not meant to be a high pull. Thus, it is important not to use your arms to pull the kettlebell overhead. In fact, you should never go overhead with this movement because the heavy weight will put an unnecessary strain on your shoulders, thereby risking injuries. Just use the momentum that you have when doing the kettlebell swing and you'll do just fine.
3 Raising Your Butt During Planks
Planks are great exercises for strengthening your core and sculpting your abs, but you need to make sure that you're doing it right to reap the rewards. Inching up your hips and butt as you hold the plank position is nothing but cheating, thus making it less effective as an ab toner.
Make sure that your body is in a straight line from your head to your hips to your heels when you hold the plank position. This might make the one-minute plank a lot harder than what you were used to, but remember that it's better to hold the perfect form for 20 seconds than to do it longer with incorrect form.
2 Wrong Positioning Of Your Hands During Push-Ups
Almost everyone knows how to do a push-up, but not everyone is aware of the proper way of doing one. In fact, many people still position their hands wider than their shoulders, hence putting unnecessary strain on the front of the shoulders.
The correct way to do push-ups is to position the wrists directly below the shoulders in a straight line. This will tone your triceps and chest without any shoulder strain. Alternatively, if you can't do the full push-up yet, you can try doing the modified one where you stay on your knees as you come all the way down and back up.
1 Wrong Landing During Plyometric Exercises
Pylometrics like tuck jumps and box jumps are highly popular these days since they give you killer strength and cardio workouts at the same time. But they also make you prone to injuries, especially if you don't practice proper form when landing.
Instead of landing on your heel or ball of your foot, focus on landing softly on the mid-foot, and then roll forward to push off the ball of the foot. This will prevent excessive side-to-side motion at the knees. Make sure that you complete a dynamic warm-up routine before you perform pylometrics, and don't do a whole pylo workout without mastering proper landing mechanics first.