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  • Top 10 exercise errors...Part 2

Top 10 exercise errors...Part 2


 So, carrying on from last week, here are the next 5 exercises that I regularly see being done poorly or incorrectly when I'm in the gym.  You may think I'm being boring, but it really is true that a lot of the exercise-related injuries I see in the clinic are to do with a failure of technique, or of pushing just that bit too far or with that bit too much weight, rather than taking it a bit slower.  It's the old tortoise/hare fable all over again - starting out with pathetic little weights may seem stupid and embarressing to those who care about that sort of thing, but in the long run it'll be you who's laughing when you can lift more weight with better technique and having avoided all the injuries your less-informed mates will have suffered!

Stomach crunches/sit-ups – first off, don’t do full sit-ups.  Total waste of time, very bad for your back, and more likely to work the muscles in the front of your hips then your abs.  Half sit-ups are much better.  Lightly rest your hands by your ears while lying on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor.  Squeeze your stomach muscles to lift your upper body off the floor slightly, breathing out as you do so, and then slowly lower yourself back down.  You should feel no strain in your neck – all the work comes from your stomach, so try not to haul yourself up with your neck or shoulders.

Squats – it seems that most technique-failures hit the lower back, and this is no exception.  In an effort to lift weight, and sink deeper into the squat, the tendency is to round through your lower back, flattening it out rather than maintain that nice gentle curve.  Sometimes, this is accompanied by the upper body collapsing forward slightly.  To start squats, leave the weight off altogether – get the movement sorted, then worry about adding weights.  Place your hand in the small of your back, and do your squat – there should be no movement under your hand.  None.  Sometimes it also helps to have a friend film you from the side as you do the squat, so you can check your technique.  You also need to keep an eye on your knees – make sure they don’t travel further forward than your toe, or start to fall in towards each other.

The Plank – I love this exercise.  It’s great for really making you feel that you are working hard, and have achieved something by the end of it.  Basically, you are face down, propped up on your forearms and toes with your body forming a rigidly straight line, with only the correct spinal curves allowed.  There are two common “fails” here – one, when people really are struggling to do this exercise at all, they tend to lift their hips towards the ceiling and form an inverted V; the other fault is as someone gets tired towards the end of their hold they get tired and their hips start to sink towards the floor, forming a U.  The first is just ineffective, and won’t help you improve your strength at all, but the second puts a lot of strain on your low back.  Again, having a friend watch you from the side or occasionally glancing at yourself in a mirror can help make sure you don’t fall into these traps.  For the majority of the exercise, though, you must have you head facing forward, looking down at the floor with your neck in neutral alignment with your spine.

Leg Press – this is a machine-based exercise, aimed at working your legs and gluteal muscles in a similar way to the squats.  It’s all about control.  You should have absolute control of the weight at all times – again, wanting to impress their mates, people tend to overload on weight and let the plates bounce off the stops at the end of the movement, using the rebound as a head-start on the next press.  Not only is this minimising the effectiveness of the exercise, but it is also risking some pretty painful injuries.  Also, the effort of pushing against the plate sometimes makes people push against the support with their lower back – not a good idea.  Keep that neutral spine at all times, and remember slow and steady, and you should avoid most pitfalls.

Lunges – have pity on my knees, and do your lunges correctly.  I swear, watching other people doing lunges wrong makes my knees hurt in sympathy!  There are a lot of things to watch for, but the basic rules are 900 and in a straight line.  Your leading leg, in front, should form a 90o angle at both the hip and knee, with your body being kept upright.  The trailing leg, behind, will therefore form a straight line through your hip, and a 90o angle at your knee.  If you take a sneaky glance down, you should note that your front knee is not going any further forward than the tip of your toe, and is in line with your second toe. There is a strong tendency for the knee to collapse inwards, and the twisting force this puts on the joint is going to cause pain in fairly short order.

Of course, this list is far from exhaustive, and if you have any problems or questions then feel free to send me a message and I'll see what I can do to help! 

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