Don’t take this the wrong way, but we need to talk about how you’re exercising. As a fitness professional, there are a few common exercises that I see people do incorrectly time and time again, leaving them frustrated with a lack of results or, worse, injured. No one likes to be told what they’re doing wrong, but don’t take it personally—poor form during exercise is not only very common, but most likely not even your fault.
So often a bad squat or push-up happens due to poor instruction in the past or bad habits that developed over time and were never corrected. Either way, fixing poor form is crucial to reaping the benefits of your workouts! Every minute you invest in a workout is precious time—ensuring you get the details of the moves down can help you get the most out of your workout and prevent injury. Poor form can keep you from progressing with your workouts, leaving you stuck with the same eight pound weights over and over or never getting past four good push-ups.
Have no fear! Here are the five most common exercise moves people perform improperly and everything you need to do them correctly. Read the common mistakes people make doing each exercise, learn what to do to fix your form, and follow the picture and description to ensure you’re doing it right.
WRONG! Sagging low back. Butt in the air. Head dripping downward. Elbows pointed too far out. Not using core muscles.
RIGHT! Squeeze your abs, glutes, and legs completely while you perform the push up. Keep your body in a straight line with your eyes gazing at the floor in front of your fingertips. Bend your elbows so they slightly angle back and out as you lower your chest to the floor. Exhale as you push away from the floor to straighten arms.
WRONG! Knees bowing out too far or turning inward. Not getting deep enough. Not using abdominals or glutes. Tipping your body forward and looking down or rounding your back.
RIGHT! Stand with feet between hip and shoulder-width apart. As you lower into the squat, let your knees track over your toes. Keep your spine long with your eyes and chest up as you move down and up. Hinging slightly forward at the hips is needed, but don’t bend too far forward. Tighten abdominals and glutes both on the way down and especially on the way up.
WRONG! Moving forward and back rather than up and down. Knees pushing over toes. Not pulling in core muscles. Bending forward. Trying to put the back heel on the ground.
RIGHT! Keep your back tall and abs pulled in tight. Balance on the ball of the back foot and bend your back knee as you lower straight down and press straight up. Make sure your front knee stays over your front ankle or shoelaces.
WRONG! Pulling on your head or neck. Tucking your chin too far into your chest. Letting your head hang too far back. Moving too quickly or using momentum.
RIGHT! Tilt your head slightly forward, but leave enough space for a tennis ball under your chin. Place the pads of your fingers behind your ears to support the weight of your head OR keep your arms extended straight towards your legs (as pictured below). Look forward and as you exhale slowly lift up as if a string is pulling your chest forward and slowly lowering you down.
WRONG! Cupping or curling your fingers. Letting your back sag. Scrunching your shoulders. Holding your breath.
RIGHT! Make sure your hands are spread open wide to avoid wrist injury and placed directly below your shoulders to avoid shoulder issues. Keep your spine long and tighten your abdominals and glutes the entire time. Breathe in and out, making sure your exhale pulls your abs in deeper each time. Keep your shoulders pulled down and back, away from your ears.