5 Common Exercise Mistakes Everyone Makes (And How To Fix Them)

Focusing on form is the first step to maximizing the benefits of exercise.

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How To Improve Your Form

Regular exercise is the key to health, but if you’re moving incorrectly you could be doing more harm than good. To maximize the benefits of exercise and prevent joint damage, first focus on form. Here’s what you need to know.

We are born with the ability to move properly, thanks to the foundation of human mechanics. This foundation stems from seven primal movements: squat, lunge, bend, twist, push, pull and gait. The following 10-minute routine has its foundations in these same primal moves. Although most of us know these exercises, many of us perform them improperly (poor form or too quickly), which can make our efforts a waste of time or worse, cause injury. When it comes to strength training, we need to think of quality before quantity and basics before advanced moves.

Complete all of the exercises in a row, with your focus on good form. Once complete, repeat the sequence for a second round.

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photo credit: michael alberstat

Improve Your Form: The Lunge

Rookie Mistake: Extending your knee beyond your toe, with pressure on the ball of your forefoot

The Solution: Emphasizing weight distribution on your heel

• Stand with your core engaged, spine straight and shoulders back.
• Step forward with your right leg into a lunge position, placing your heel down first and your knee at 90 degrees
or less (your knee should not go past your toe).
• Push off your right heel while maintaining good posture and return to the starting position.
• Repeat by stepping with your opposite leg and continue alternating for one minute.

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photo credit: michael alberstat

Improve Your Form: The Bent-Over Row

Rookie Mistake:Rounding forward with your spine (that is, a C-shaped spine) and shrugging your shoulders

The Solution: Recruiting your mid-back muscles to keep your spine straight
• Start with weights in your hands, knees bent, chest high and shoulders back.
• Hinge forward from your hips while keeping a natural curve in your lumbar spine (with your back almost parallel to the ground).
• Draw your mid-shoulder blades together and bend your elbows, bringing dumbbells up to the side of your rib cage.
• Return dumbbells back to the straight-arm position.
• Repeat for one minute.

Note: Keep your shoulders back and down and squeeze the lower edge of your shoulder blades together with each rep. You should feel all of the back extensors activated throughout the entire exercise.

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photo credit: michael alberstat

Improve Your Form: The Push-Up

Rookie Mistake:Placing your hands too far forward and relaxing your hips

The Solution: Maintaining proper form, with your chest directly above your hands and your core engaged

• Lie down on the ground in a push-up position (on your feet or knees), with your hands directly beside your shoulders and your fingertips about one inch below your shoulders.
• Tighten your core, with your thighs off the ground.
• Push through your palms to extend your arms into the top of a push-up position.
• Slowly lower back to the starting position.
• Repeat for one minute.

Pro Tip: Your hips shouldn’t sag throughout the exercise, and your chest should remain directly above your hands while keeping your core tight. This move can be completed on your knees or feet.

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photo credit: michael alberstat

Improve Your Form: The Stiff-Legged Dead Lift

Rookie Mistake:Rounding your shoulders forward and positioning your back incorrectly (which increases your risk of a lower-back injury)

The Solution:Maintaining proper form, holding dumbbells while standing tall, with your chest high and shoulders back

• Keep your knees bent (your knee position should remain fixed throughout the exercise).
• With a straight back and natural curve in your spine, slowly hinge forward from your hips into a position where you feel your hamstrings stretching.
• Keep your weight on your heels and your dumbbells close to your body while returning back to the starting position.
• Repeat for one minute.

Pro Tips: Keep your core tight and maintain the natural curve in your lower back throughout the movement.

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photo credit: michael alberstat

Improve Your Form: The Plank

Rookie Mistake: Placing your arms too far forward, relaxing your hips and shrugging your shoulders

The Solution: Maintaining proper form
• Place your forearms on the ground, shoulder width apart, with your elbows directly below your shoulders and your hands apart.
• With your feet shoulder width apart, draw your belly button to your spine, engaging your core, and lift your body off the ground to a position where your hips are parallel to the ground.
• Hold this position for one minute.

Pro Tips: Keep your shoulders back and down and avoid clenching your fists. Focus on tilting your hips slightly so that you’re drawing your pubic bone toward your belly button.After completing all five exercises, return to the first exercise for one more round for a total of 10 minutes of exercise.

This workout was designed for Best Health by Brent Bishop, a national on-air fitness expert, celebrity trainer, author and owner of Think Fitness Studios in Toronto.  As always, we recommend checking with your healthcare practitioner before starting this or any exercise plan. 

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