You’re probably doing it wrong…

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I remember when I was 18 and first starting to work out. My friends and I liked to see how much weight we could “max out” on different exercises. We would push more than we could handle with the worst form possible and thought we were actually accomplishing something.

The reality is we were putting ourselves at risk for injury.  Not only is improper form and technique unsafe, it’s ineffective at working the targeted muscle group. What’s the point of putting in all of that work if you aren’t going to see any results? Or worse, end up injuring yourself so badly that you have to give up your gym time all together.

Let’s go over the top three exercises most commonly done wrong and how you can adjust your form to safely and effectively gain strength.

1. Squat:

– Get low. Use a weight that allows you to get low enough so that your hamstrings are parallel to the floor. If you can’t get that low, lighten the load to achieve a full range of motion.

– Straighten up. Your back should be straight through the entire exercise. To avoid hunching over, keep your shoulders up and back; do not let them round forward.

2. Bench Press:

– Flatten out. I often see people pressing more weight than they can manage, which leads to an arched back. If your back does not stay flat on the bench, take off some weight and pull your navel to your spine. Contracting your core muscles can also help support your back during this exercise.

– Plant your feet. Your feet should be firmly planted on the ground at all times to keep you from shifting weight and ensuring your chest muscles do all the work.

– Get a spot. It’s always reassuring to have someone standing over you in case the weight is too heavy, or you can’t complete the last rep.

3. Overhead Triceps Extension:

– Bring it in. When your elbows flare out it takes the load off your triceps and strains your shoulders. Keep your elbows tight to your side to really isolate the triceps.

– Stand strong. If your heels come off the floor, the weight is too heavy. Ditch some of the load, keep your feet flat and slightly bend at the knees to support your back.

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