I hate using the word “wrong” when it comes to workouts. The way I see it, if you’re trying to change your life, you’re doing something new – and new isn’t always familiar or easy. Intimidation is one of the biggest roadblocks to getting someone into a gym or fitness studio in the first place, so the moment we put fear or shame into someone’s mind is the moment they often go back to the couch.
Here are a few of the most common mistakes I see people make at the gym or fitness studio:
Squats and lunges are some of my favorite moves to teach. They work multiple muscles; you can performed them with no weights, free weights or barbells; and you can modify them in endless varieties. But the proper form is not instinctive. The first thing to keep in mind is that your knees should not go past your feet. Let’s look at the squat as an example.
Your glutes should go back and down, as if you’re sitting in a chair, and you should keep your weight on your heels. To make sure you’re going back far enough in the squat, try this two-point test:
- Look down at your feet. Can you see your toes? If your knees are blocking them, you’re too far forward. Shift your hips back and concentrate on sitting in an invisible chair.
- Once you’re in your squat, try wiggling your toes. If you can’t do it without losing your balance, think about shifting your weight into your heels. As you move through the squat, keep your spine in a neutral position, and don’t lean too far forward or too far back.
At the top, when you’re standing straight, keep your knees a little loose. Locking them in place can be dangerous!
Push-Ups and Planks with Piked Hips
I include planks in every class I teach. I love this core workout! Just like squats and lunges, you can use one of the many variations for all fitness levels (try doing it with a two-year-old on your back!). To target the right muscles and avoid a brutal back injury, keep a few things in mind:
- Try not to suck in your abdominal muscles. Because you’re working on your abs, you might think you have to keep everything tucked in and tight. What you really want to think about is keeping the abs engaged. To practice, try grunting or saying “ha” as quickly as possible. Your core actually feels as if it pushes out rather than sucks in, and that’s the feeling you want to maintain. Don’t hold your breath, but do your best to keep that tight core throughout the plank.
- Keep your hips in line with your body. I often see students piking their hips or lifting them into the air. While some variations of the plank will have you in pike position, you generally want to keep everything straight. Whether you’re on your hands or forearms, focusing on this position can make a big difference.