11 Gym Exercises Most People Are Doing Wrong – You pay for a gym membership and walk in, confident as can be. And when the front desk person asks you if you know how to work the machines, you proudly say “of course”. Seconds later, you realize you could’ve used some help, but you’re too shy to ask for it. Sound familiar? In that case, listen up – doing certain exercises wrong isn’t just useless, it can even injure you!
If you do them properly, squats are a perfect exercise that works out your entire lower body, puts muscle on your legs, and helps with posture. The most common mistakes while doing squats are: rounding your back, going only half way down, rising onto your toes, and caving in your knees. To avoid all of these, try to practice the proper form.
Keep your back in a neutral position, with your shoulders back, your chest up, and your feet shoulder-width apart, turned out at 45°. As you go down, work your core and bum muscles, and keep the weight on your heels as if you were sitting back into a chair. Keep your arms straight and in front of your stomach. When you’re doing it right, your knees will push outward and your back will stay straight. If you want to add weights to it, use lighter ones first and increase them as you gain strength.
2. Leg press
The leg press seems like a rather simple machine that works out glutes and thighs, but if you’reusing it wrong, it won’t do you any good. Avoid going too deep with your knees from the start, since this can injure your lower back. It’s important to keep your legs bent at 90 degrees, and don’t lock your knees as you straighten them.
A lot of people ignore their heel position and let them slide off the edge of the platform– don’t make this mistake, and keep them on the sled to keep your balance and avoid unnecessary pressure on your knees. Also, only load a weight you can work with – you won’t benefit from shallow reps.
3. Front and lateral shoulder raises
The most common mistake with shoulder raises is believing that the higher you go with the weights, the more effective the exercise will be. It’s wrong, and you risk straining your muscles if you do that. Instead, lift the weights to the height of your shoulders, keeping your arms slightly forward. This way you won’t contract the shoulder blades back. Your pinky finger should be a little higher than the others during the exercise. As for your feet, they should be at shoulder width with knees slightly bent.
Cardio is an important part of any workout routine, and treadmill training is a perfect way of doing it. When you’re on the treadmill, avoid the temptation of holding onto the handrails – it makes running easier, and thus less effective, and can mess up your posture as you hunch over the machine.
If you can’t run without holding on, try lowering the speed or incline level. Speaking of that, don’t set it higher than 8% to save your back, hips, and ankles from a strain they don’t deserve. And, never, ever jump off a machine that’s still in motion! This might sound funny and obvious, but it’s one of the most wide spread causes of gym injuries.
5. Stomach crunches
Anyone who wants to get a toned belly practices crunches. If you’re one of those people, but aren’t seeing any results in your abdominal muscles,you might just be doing crunches the wrong way. Don’t tuck your chin into your chest like many people do; this strains the neck. And stay closer to the floor, about 3 inches off the mat should be fine.
Take your time – going slower will help you do the exercise properly, and engage yourcore to the max. Ten real crunches are better for your body then 100 not so good attempts.
6. Triceps dips
Triceps dips won’t give you the shoulder injury that many people fear, if you do them the right way. Keep your torso and butt close to the bench, step, or chair you’re working out on. This way you won’t overextend your shoulders. It’s okay to bend your knees a bit if you can’t do it with straight legs, but don’t try to make things easier by moving further from the base. Go down, bending at the elbow, and move back up, contracting the triceps to make them work hard.
Both rowing in the open water and on a rowing machine are great calorie burners, affecting all the muscles in your body. The right technique is the key to success with this exercise. When you row just with your arms, you’re exposing your upper body to too much pressure and can injure your back and shoulders.
Try to split your efforts in a proportion of 60% going from your legs, and the remaining 40 percent from your core and arms. This mental splitting of the pressure on your body parts should help keep you engaged. Sit tall on the rower – avoid slouching. Don’t go for speed over power – make long and controlled rows.
Don’t forget about syncing up your rhythm with your breath – it’s important for any rhythmic activity. Exhale through the mouth as you go back, and inhale through the nose on reset. Don’t ignore the damper lever at the side of the machine – experiment with it to find the most comfortable level just for you.
Stretching the elbows too far out, moving with your hips instead of your whole body, bending your back and neck, and going only halfway down are the most common mistakes people make while doing push ups. Are you guilty of any of those? I am. To avoid them in the future, try to keep your back straight, and let your arms do all the moving work. Keep your hands parallel to your chest on the floor. Your head should be in a neutral position, and your moves should be slow and controlled. When your chest reaches the surface, push up until your arms lock out.
9. Bicep curls, dumbbell and barbell
What’s the best way to get toned arms?Most people would say bicep curls. However, they won’t do you much good if you curl your wrists upwards while exercising,drop the weights down too quickly, or swing them up, engaging your shoulders and back instead. To give your biceps a proper workout, imagine there’s a string running from your shoulder to the weight you’re lifting.
That string should help you move the weight from your hand to your shoulder, and your biceps will squeeze at the top of that movement. It’s okay to either keep your wrists straight or somewhat loose – it’s just important that you don’t work and injure the wrist joint.
10. Cable triceps extensions
As you extend your arms behind your neck, you’re giving your triceps a great workout. You can do it either with an EZ bar attachment, or a rope, but in any case, make sure you lock your elbows tight to your ribs. They shouldn’t be going back and forth with the weights. Try not to stand too straight during this exercise either – instead, slightly bend forward to give your body a full range of motion, and a full extension.
Probably the biggest surprise on the list – pull-ups and chin-ups – are the exercises most people do wrong, just because they believe there’s no way to mess them up. In fact, if you’re swinging your body as you move up and down, don’t brace your core and legs, and flop around – you are, indeed, doing it wrong. Your range of motion also matters, so you gotta make sure you go both low and high enough.
A good starting position is a dead hang with fully extended arms. You can keep them at shoulder width for pull-ups, and chin-ups need a narrower grip. You start with retracting the shoulder blades. Then, you pull hard, engaging your biceps, back muscles, and elbows. If you’re doing chin-ups, keep your chin over the bar. For pull-ups, just try to make it as high as you can.
To become a pro at it, you can start practicing on a lat machine. At first, when it’s too hard to handle, try jumping into a chin-up or push-up, and holding the position for as long as you can manage, then going down slowly. Were you doing any of these exercises wrong? Let me know down in the comments.