As a personal trainer, it is sometimes difficult to stop myself from walking up to someone who is doing an exercise incorrectly. Not only is there risk for injury, you won't be getting the results you want. Here are five moves that you are great to tone the body when done correctly.
1. Lat Pulldown
Hopefully the picture on the machine is showing you how to do this one correctly, but there are still some people pulling the long bar down behind their head. The correct form is to have your hands, elbow-distance apart on the bar. Slightly lean back without pressing your knees into the foam pad, and pull the bar down just below the chin. Squeeze the shoulder blades together and keep your shoulders relaxed, as you hold the bar down one to three seconds before slowing releasing to the top. You should feel fatigued by the 12-15th repetition or increase the weight.
2. Push Ups
Although this is a great exercise for building the upper body, many people are still doing it wrong. Start in plank position with hands, elbow distance apart – think wider than your yoga mat. Women should start this exercise on the knees until they are able to hold a plank with good form since they have more weight in their hips than shoulders and may put pressure on the lower back. Slowly lower the chest to elbow height without arching the neck. Hold at the bottom of the move for one to three seconds and press arms straight to finish. Repeat 12-15 repetitions. To increase intensity, straighten legs or place feet on a raised surface.
3. Floor Overhead Tricep Press
The most common error on this move is to extend the arms straight over the chest for the finish. Conversely, if you start and finish the movement with arms at a 20-degree angle to the body, you will keep tension on the muscles and make it more effective. Also note that the shoulder to elbow does not move on this exercise. Rather, you should only be straightening the arm from hand to elbow.
4. Side Lunges
This move targets the glutes and thighs but if your form isn’t perfect, you might be missing out the best part of strengthening the back side. Make sure you feel the weight in your heels as you lunge to the side, and your toes must both be pointed forward to keep the knee in alignment. Turning the bent knee foot outward opens the hip and puts pressure on the knee ligaments which can lead to an injury.
5. Bicycle Abs
This move is more effective in targeting the core than traditional crunches but doing it wrong can put pressure on the lower back. Make sure to lift the shoulder blade off the floor and keep the lower back imprinted on your mat as you reach your elbow towards the opposite knee. It's also important to keep your extended leg from lowering more than 45-degrees. Lower is not better; it just puts more pressure on the hip flexors rather than the abdominals.
Good form is key and working out with mirrors or a personal trainer on a regular basis is your best way to get better results and prevent injuries. For more examples of working out with proper form, and to get a customized workout based on your trouble spots, check out Workout Pal.