Now, I am not a stiffler when it comes top form on certain exercises, however, I would like to talk to you today about a few exercises that, if performed incorrectly, can negatively affect your training progress and could even land you in IR for a while with bad tendinitis or strains.
Actually, for a couple years, I was even guilty to improper form. Sometimes I would use momentum to assist in getting reps, I would not extend or flex through the desired range of motion, and it ultimately gave me HORRIBLE elbow tendinitis and shoulder pain.
Once you fix your form and execution, you may first take a big ego hit, because you will be stuck doing less reps or weight(I went from doing 100 push ups at once to 65), BUT ultimately, you will become stronger, activating the proper muscles, and burning more fat which build nice LEAN muscle.
See, when performing exercises the wrong way, you most likely are putting stress on tendons and ligaments, not the muscles. So it makes fat burning and muscle building nearly impossible.
So, lets take a look at a few examples and try to get these mistakes corrected.
1.) Push Ups
The ever so loved push-up. You probably have done these ever since you started gym class in elementary school, aspiring to become the next hulk hogan. However, you will never remember a time when your teacher or coach made sure you had correct form!
Because they didn't know!
And you might be saying,
"Mike I keep my elbows tucked at 45 degrees and go all the way to the floor! My form is great!”
Well, that’s what I thought until I learned how I should really be doing them. I went from doing push-ups with a 45-lb plate on my back for sets of 12 to not even being able to execute five correct push-ups on the floor with just my body weight. Talk about humiliation!
- Chest out. Beware, this is harder than it seems. Most of us battle with weak scapular stabilizers and tight pecs because we’re constantly sitting—at work, in the car, or playing video games and watching television. In order to keep your chest out properly, you must seat your scapulae, driving them down and together. This puts your scapulae in the correct position to do their job during the push-up, which leads us to our next point.
- Scapular retraction and protraction during the push-up. When you go into the bottom portion of the push-up, your scapulae should retract or “come together.” When you push yourself up, your scapulae should protract or “come apart.”
- Low back neutral. This is one of the biggest issues I see whenever someone is doing a push-up. Everyone thinks she’s staying nice and tight in her core, but the truth is she probably isn’t. Get a video of yourself doing push-ups from the side and you will get a much more objective perspective of what your push-up really looks like! In order to stay neutral, draw your abs in tight toward your spine throughout the entire movement. This will take any unnecessary stress off the lumbar spine and actually turns the push-up into one of the best core strengthening exercises out there.
- Glutes tight. You should be squeezing your glutes like you’re holding a $100 bill in there! Keeping your glutes tight will help stabilize your core and pelvis while performing the push-up. I know it isn’t an easy task to concentrate on keeping every area of your body tight at once, but you will gain more strength with every tight push-up you perform than you would with ten mindless ones.
- Elbows at 45 degrees and go through the full range of motion. OK, this one might be preaching to the choir, but just to cover my bases, flaring your elbows out to 90 degrees is hard on the shoulders and should be avoided. If you aren’t getting full range of motion, you’re just fooling yourself. No one else in the gym is impressed with 100 elbow twitches or the physique that comes with it.
Bad Push Ups(And You Can Laugh, BUT I SEE THIS ON A DAILY BASIS)
The ever so loved lunge! There isn't an exercise that has the potential to make you sore time after time and as often as lunges! There are so many variations of the lunge, and with many variations, comes incorrect execution.
When performing a lunge, please think about:
- Railroad track steps. Begin with your feet no more than shoulder width apart. With each step, imagine a straight line going forward (or backward for reverse lunges) from your foot as if you were walking on railroad tracks. Your foot and knee should stay in line with your imaginary tracks. If you have hip stability issues, you will find that your legs will want to drift inward or outward from the “tracks” to compensate for the weakness and instability. Even if it means dropping the weight, keep your form. This will force the stabilizers of the hip to strengthen, allowing for bigger squat numbers.
- Square your hips. If you had headlights coming out of your hip bones, they should be facing straight ahead. This will get your pelvis in the proper position for a lunge and also ensure that you’re getting proper hip extension and a good hip flexor stretch.
- Get tall. That means chest up, abs drawn in, and spine neutral. Pull up with your body. This will ensure good posture during the lunge and engage your abdominals more effectively. Some people tend to arch back or lean forward to get tall instead of up. To prevent this, make sure there is a straight line from the hips to the shoulders.
- Squeeze the glute of the back leg. This ensures you’re getting extension from your hip, not your lower back. It keeps your pelvis stable and in the correct position throughout the lunge.
- Drop straight down. Most people have a tendency to lunge forward because they’re quad dominant. Your shin should be vertical and perpendicular to the floor. This will force you to engage your glutes and hamstrings more, but it will give you a better hip flexor stretch and take some of the shearing force off your front knee.
- Prevent knee cave. Keep the front knee toward your pinky toe. Forcing the knee out will engage the medial glute during the movement, providing stability and strength during the lunge.
3.) Chin Up :
The chin-up is one the the greatest exercises for strength and overall fitness. It activates muscles in your chest, back, biceps, and shoulders! With so many muscles being worked....you guessed it....comes incorrect form!
Here is what to think about when doing chin-ups.
- Eliminate any swinging of the body (assuming you aren’t performing a kipping chin-up). There is definitely an argument for using momentum (getting more reps than normal, blah blah blah). However, in this instance, you want to eliminate swing and momentum to perform a well executed chin-up. This ensures that you’re maximally engaging and taxing the proper muscles, not relying on momentum to get your reps. If you can’t do a chin-up without swinging, grab some band and use them to do assisted chins.
- Bring your sternum to the bar. Aiming for your sternum rather than your chin encourages you to pull more with your back and less with your biceps. This will also get your scapulae in that nice, seated position, reinforcing scapular stability.
- Stay as tight and stable as possible during the chin-up. This turns the chin-up into an incredible full body exercise that is fantastic for increasing core stabilization.
There you have it! A few BASIC exercises that MOST people perform incorrectly, and some nice insight on how to do them the right way! Performing exercises correctly will ensure proper muscle activation which will lead to bigger gains and better fat loss! Which is what EVERYONE who resistance trains wants, right?
I hope everyone enjoys their Sunday fun day!
Mindset of The Day:
"Just do it. It’s less painful to do it than it is to sit around and think about it or feel guilty that you haven’t started yet. Once you get started, things will get done."
Get out there and start reaching for your dreams! If you get knocked down, GET RIGHT BACK UP!
NEVER EVER GIVE UP!
CPT / Strength & Conditioning Specialist