Good Idea, Bad Form

Could poor form be to blame for your lack of results, soreness, or injury?

You should be proud of yourself for making the effort to exercise. Finding the time, setting fitness goals, and heading to the gym aren’t always easy to do, but since you’ve made the commitment to exercise, you might as well exercise the right way. Your body was created to move in certain ways, so moving out of alignment or placing unnecessary stress on certain muscles or joints may cause a lack of results, leave you feeling sore, or even lead to injury.

If you’re interested in doing things the right way for your body’s sake, here’s a list of seven exercises you may be doing wrong and how to fix your form.

1. Lunges

The lunge is a basic exercise that can tone your legs, thighs, core, glutes, and lower back if done the right way. That said, many people make the mistake of taking steps that are too small when they lunge, placing stress on the bent knee. Over time this can strain the tendons and wear down cartilage.

When you step forward, your front foot should be at least two feet away from your lowered back knee. Front and back knees should form a 90-degree angle. Keep a straight posture and don’t twist your waist.

2. Crunches

Incorporating a few crunches into your exercise routine is fine, but don’t expect magical results. Too much tight bending can damage your spine or hurt your neck. Doing crunches with your feet anchored the the floor may be ineffective or dangerous to your back, so it’s best to do them by bending your knees and raising your legs so your calves are parallel to the floor.

3. Planks

The best way to tone and strengthen your abdominals is with exercises that stabilize your core. Planks are highly effective abdominal exercises when done the right way. However, they’re often not done the right way, as it looks easier than it is. For a proper plank, your body must be in a straight line from your head to your heels. You’re cheating if you raise your bottom in the air and it’s not as effective if your core isn’t engaged. You’ll get more out of holding a proper plank for 15 seconds than holding a plank with incorrect form for a minute.

4. & 5. Bicep Curls and Dumbbell Rows

The mistake many people make with bicep curls and dumbbell rows is taking on too much weight at once. You may want to impress your fellow gym mates, but you aren’t doing yourself any favors. Lifting too much weight places stress not only on the muscle you’re trying to work, but also on surrounding muscles and joints. Focus on proper form rather than increasing the weight and you’ll reduce your risk of injury and see results in less time.

6. Lat Pull Downs

A great way to work multiple back muscles at once, the lat pull down is often done incorrectly, putting you at risk for serious injury to the shoulders, neck, or back. When you do a lat pull down, never pull down the bar while sitting hunched over. Instead, sit up straight with your shoulder blades pinched together. Also, remember that pulling the bar down lower than your chin may strain or tear muscle, so pull accordingly.

7. Bench Press

Get the most out of your bench press by keeping your feet flat on the floor. Resting them on the bench or allowing them to rise off the floor takes the load off your upper body and decreases the effectiveness of this exercise. It also reduces your ability to balance the weight, putting you at risk for dropping the bar on yourself or falling off the bench.