7 Common Exercises You Could Be Doing Wrong

Tuesday Nov 3 | BY |
| No Comments

A fitness group training push ups, hang ups and squat at a gym center.

You’ve probably done these exercises since high school,
but you could be making mistakes that lead to injury.

You’ve probably done a few squats in your life, and if you’re like most people, you’ve probably done them wrong a time or two.

Squats are easy to get wrong, but you may be surprised to learn that you could be doing some of your other standard exercises in ways that could increase your risk of injury, or rob you of the full health benefits of your exertion.

Are you a runner? Do you do yoga? What about push-ups? Read on to make sure you’re doing what’s best for your body.

1. Squats

Perhaps of all exercises, this is the easiest one to get wrong—and the most risky if you do. Even if you think you’re doing it right, you might want to check again. Getting your weight back on your heels is key, as is making sure your knees don’t go past your toes. Common mistakes include standing with your feet too far apart, and letting your toes turn out too far.

Instead, stand with your feet just slightly wider than shoulder-width. Feet should be neutral or only slightly turned out. Watch your knees—even if they’re not going past your toes, be sure they’re not caving inward (they can go slightly outward). Next, be sure to keep your back straight (rather than rounding it as you bend), and your chest lifted.

The best way is to imagine that you’re sitting back into a chair, and squeeze your glutes to help you stand back up.

2. Push-ups

Push-ups are second to squats when it comes to doing them wrong. One of the most common mistakes is flaring the elbows out too much—near perpendicular to the body. Other mistakes include putting the hands too far in front of the shoulders, bending the hips while moving up and down, and letting the back sag.

To ensure the right position, place the palms slightly wider than shoulder width, and think about lining up the midline of your chest with your thumbs. When you lower down, your chest should come straight down between your hands. Imagine a straight line from your shoulders to your hips to your knees to your heels. When you go down, only your palms on the balls of your feet should touch the floor.

3. Bicep Curls

The problem here is getting the shoulder into the action, which shortchanges your bicep and may lead you to think that you’re stronger in the bicep than you are. If you see your elbow moving (usually forward) when you’re curling, you’re doing it wrong. That shifts some of the weight to the shoulder.

It’s also tempting to lean back during the curl, or curl the wrist upward—both no-nos.

Instead, you need to be sure your elbow stays put. Place it at your side or slightly in front or in back of you, but make sure it stays in the same place. Keep the wrist straight (even if you’re twisting the weight as you curl). When you curl, keep the elbow still and concentrate on squeezing the bicep.

4. Running

People often end up in pain when running, and that can often be because they’re getting something wrong.

Common mistakes include failing to replace your running shoes often enough (experts recommend new ones every 400 miles), failing to stretch when you’re finished (to keep muscles from getting too tight), taking shallow breaths, keeping your strides too long, and striking the ground with your heels.

Good running form involves:

  • Holding your hands slightly wider than your body so they’re not crossing the center line and causing your torso to twist
  • Relaxing your shoulders
  • Keeping the hands loose
  • Hit the ground with the mid-foot—with the foot underneath the hips (not in front of them)
  • Straight torso—imagine a string from your head to the sky
  • Having a good “cadence,” of about 180 steps per minute (count the number of times your right foot lands in one minute, and double it to get your cadence)
  • Breathing more from the belly than the chest

5. Yoga

There are a number of ways you can get a particular pose wrong, and you can work with an instructor on those, but there are also some general mistakes that people often make.

One of the most common is forgetting about your breathing. One of the main goals of yoga is to create flow and harmony throughout the body, and the breath is the main way we do this. Don’t forget to inhale and exhale as you change and hold each pose.

Another common mistake is trying too hard to get into a difficult pose. Yoga is more about gradually stretching mind and body to increase flexibility and muscle tone. It’s even more about adopting a lifestyle practice that you engage in every day, with gradual improvements over time. So if you’re trying to get yourself into a pose and your body isn’t cooperating, step back and try to ease into it instead.

As with any exercise, the proper workout gear is important, but it is particularly helpful in yoga. If you’re wearing clothes that are too baggy or too tight or simply uncomfortable, you will be distracted while trying to do the poses. The wrong items can even get in the way of you achieving some stretches.

In summary, don’t hold your breath, don’t overdo it or see it as a competition, and dress for the part.

6. Bicycling

Bicycling is a great exercise for all ages, but though you may have learned how as a kid, you may have some bad habits. Some common ones include positioning the seat too high or too low, poor pedaling technique, and not wearing the appropriate clothing.

First, be sure the bike fits you (if you can’t straddle it without making contact with the center tube, it’s too bid), and that your seat is positioned correctly (knee should be bent only about 10 degrees on the downstroke). Make sure that it’s not only at the right vertical position, but horizontal, as well. Optimal horizontal angle puts the kneecap right over the ball of your foot (when on the downstroke). If the knee is in front, move the seat back, and vice-versa if the knee is behind the foot.

Good form on a bicycle includes the following:

  • Straight knees as you pedal (moving up and down, not in and out)
  • Elbows bent slightly and angled back, not out
  • Upper body is mostly still (doesn’t rock back and forth while riding)
  • Shoulders are relaxed (not hunched) and back is mostly straight from the hips to the shoulders
  • Stomach is pulled into the lower back

Some other good tips include keeping the bike in a higher gear so you can work a higher pedaling cadence, and wearing comfortable gear that keeps distractions to a minimum while you ride.

7. Walking

Really? It’s possible to do walking wrong?

Well, if you want to avoid injury and get the most out of your walks, yes.

Common mistakes include lengthening your stride too much (which can also happen in running, as noted above), and wearing the wrong shoes.

The best walking shoes are lightweight, flexible, less than a year old (cushioning breaks down by then), supportive, and the right size for your feet. Keep in mind that your feet tend to swell when walking, so be sure your shoes aren’t too small.

Clothing is important when walking, too. Dress in layers with fabrics that wick away sweat, and if you’re walking in the evening, be sure to have reflective elements on your shoes and shirt or jacket.

Good form when walking includes:

  • Taking shorter, quicker steps
  • Rolling through the foot (rather than walking flat-footed)
  • Moving your arms naturally forward and back to counterbalance leg motion
  • Keeping your head up
  • Walking “tall” with good posture
  • Maintaining relaxed shoulders
  • Breathing regularly mostly from the belly

Always stretch after a walk to keep your muscles from tightening up. Finally, if you’re walking for exercise, don’t walk too slowly! Your natural pace may be to amble along, but if you want to burn some calories, try for about four miles an hour.

Have you made mistakes when performing common exercises? How did you overcome them? Please share any tips you have with our readers.

Colleen M. Story

Colleen M. Story

Colleen M. Story, a northwest-based writer, editor, and ghostwriter, has been creating non-fiction materials for individuals, corporations, and commercial magazines for over 17 years. She specializes in the health and wellness field, where she writes and ghostwrites books, e-books, blogs, magazine articles, and more.

Colleen is the founder of Writing and Wellness. Her fantasy novel, “Rise of the Sidenah,” was released with Jupiter Gardens Press in September 2015. Her literary novel, “Loreena’s Gift,” is forthcoming in spring 2016 from Dzanc Books. She lives in Idaho. www.colleenmstory.com

Comments are closed.