No matter how many reps or sets you do of any exercise, if you’re failing at form, you’re likely not getting the results or benefits you expect. All the work you do could be for naught–or could cause you injury–if mistakes such as incorrect alignment, going too fast or too slow, and depths not appropriate for your body’s flexibility are the focus of your fitness. The following are exercises that are commonly blundered, along with some tips to put you back on the path to progress.
Lunges–with or without added weights–can do amazing things for fat burning and toning both your lower body and core. However, many people don’t obtain these results because they’re knee alignment, and thus entire form, is off.
Fix: Instead of taking baby steps with lunges, go for a bigger step out. You shouldn’t be doing the splits, but if your knee moves past your toes when bent, you need to move your foot out farther. Aim for making a right angle with your front leg.
Crunches are typically the go-to exercise for core work. And in its typical fashion, you’re laying on the floor with your feet are anchored, your arms bent behind your neck, and you’re pulling your upper body toward your knees. The first problem with this is form, which can wreak havoc on your neck and back. And the second problem is lack of variation.
Fix: The good news is that despite there being two problems areas, you can fix both by taking a crunch break. There are lots of great core exercises that put less stress on your spine, and often provide better results. Consider taking a pilates course, which brings core work into just about every movement. If you have to have your crunches, move them to an exercise ball, which allows greater range of motion and works your stabilizer muscles at the same time.
Running is a great exercise to do indoors or out, and for many is a wonderful way to clear the mind. What it’s not so easy on are the knees and hips. Pounding the pavement–or even the treadmill–causes a lot of impact to joints and can create shin splints and other ailments if foot placement is incorrect.
Fix: Correct your stride. If you tend to run heel-to-toe, you may be running toward disaster. Aim for landing on the ball or middle of your foot instead, which is built with more shock absorption. You may need to shorten your stride, or just work on changing your landing. To get the feel for this form, start from a standing position and lean forward as if you’re going to fall forward. Let your foot catch you, and as you do, you’ll likely find the proper spot on your foot to land, as well as a good body alignment to use while running.
Planks work the core without really moving a muscle. The idea is to hold a push-up like form on your forearms, and using your abs to keep you steady. However, if your body isn’t straight as a board, you’re not doing it right.
Fix: The solution can be as simple as tucking your hips. Don’t let your derriere stick out in the wind. Instead roll your hips beneath you and focus on keeping your body in good alignment. If this is difficult to hold, try doing a higher amount of planks, but holding them for less time.
Push ups can help strengthen your upper body and core–whether you’re doing them traditional style or on your knees. However, there is often some funny form happening with this type of fitness that is in serious need of fixing.
Fix: The first correction is in the set up. Barring variations on the usual push-up position, your hands should be directly below your shoulders–not wider, and your elbow should be tucked into your body, not out like chicken wings. As you lower your body, keep straight alignment making sure that you’re not letting your hips come down first or have your butt bent up. Lower your body until your chest touches the floor and then push back up to the starting position, again with your body straight and all of it coming up together at the same time.
Whether you’re new to exercising or have been working out for years, form must remain priority one of your program. Every so often, ask a friend to critique a few of your reps, or pair up with a professional to get more advice.
What is your favorite type of exercise? Tell us in the comments!