We’ve all seen it before: flailing limbs, shaky legs, completely incorrect form; some workout enthusiasts just can’t seem to figure out how use the equipment properly. Not only will doing exercises incorrectly lessen the results you want to see, it can also be downright dangerous. So instead of just guessing what’s right and what’s wrong, we’ve put together a list of some exercises that can often cause trouble and given you some ways to fix them.
One of the favorites of many gym-goers, it's no surprise how often this simple exercise is done incorrectly. While there are many variations of bench press, with each working your body slightly differently, there are some major no-nos across the board. One of the most common mistakes I see people making on the bench press is using their lower back to help power through the lift. While it might seem like a good idea to get through those last few reps, it’s actually a terrible decision. Your lower back is very susceptible to injury, especially if you aren’t spending time to strengthen it. A good way to take your lower back out of the equation is to lift your knees parallel to the bar and keep them there for the duration of the lift. Not only will your back be more firmly planted on the bench, the lift will be coming exclusively from your chest and triceps.
Oh man, don’t even get me started on curls. Without a doubt curls are one of the most overdone and incorrectly performed exercises in existence. Everyone wants cut and muscular arms, but most people don’t know how to get there. Two of the most common problems I see in the gym are too much swinging and too much weight. Too much swinging and too much weight go hand-in-hand; if the weight is too heavy for you to lift with your bicep alone, your body is naturally going to use your shoulder and back to finish the lift. While you might think, “the more weight the better,” the fact of the matter is that your muscles are going to get stronger and grow more if you can lift with control. Plus, by using your shoulder/back, you’re a lot more likely to injure yourself. So instead of adding another five pounds next time you want to do curls, just focus on lifting the weight slowly and with ideal form. After a few sets of slow and controlled bicep curls, your arms will be thanking you.
Crunches, an old-school favorite. While there are plenty of better ways to work your core, the crunch still remains a staple in most gyms. One of the most common (and easiest to correct) mistakes with the crunch is found in the positioning of your back. More often than not, I see people arching or rounding their upper back while crunching, thinking that it will give an added boost to their abs. In reality however, rounding your back will just make the exercise less effective. If you’re going to stick with crunches, focus on keeping your back completely straight during the exercise, letting the power come from your core. The result will be a much more even distribution of stress on your abs and obliques, which will get you the results you’re looking for.
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