If you watch people at the gym, it seems like there’s an endless variety of moves and exercises. That’s certainly true, but not all fitness moves are created equal. Some workout moves are tricky to perform because they require precision form. Without that, your workout is less effective and you even increase your risk for injury. If you’re a fan of these moves, you’ll want to rethink your routine and talk to a personal trainer about correcting your form or finding alternative exercises.
- Lazy leg presses: Leg presses are actually a fantastic exercise. That is, when they’re performed correctly. Most people put their feet too far apart and bend their knees too deeply. Both of these mistakes throw off your alignment, placing more stress on your knees and back. During a leg press, your knees should never bend deeper than 90 degrees, and keep your feet about shoulder-width apart or slightly less. Ask your personal trainer to watch you do some leg presses and correct your form if necessary.
- Any and all upright rows: This move requires you to pull something up close to your chin. Anytime you perform that action, you compress the nerves of your shoulder. Instead of this move, try front lateral shoulder raises. For these, you bring the weights either out to the side of your body, or out in front of you. If you start with the weights at your sides, never lift them above your shoulders. Your personal trainer can also recommend other effective moves to replace upright rows.
- The treadmill slouch: The handlebars and console of the treadmill and other cardio machines simply beg us to lean over them—especially at the end of a long workout. But once you slouch, you reduce the effectiveness of your walk or run because your body no longer has to support its own weight. You also pull your spine out of proper alignment, placing undue stress on your vertebrae. So do like your mother said, and stand up straight!
- Lat pull-downs behind your head: Most of us don’t have the shoulder mobility to perform this move correctly. As a result, we end up compromising our stance and our spines to do the exercise. Meanwhile, we also increase our risk for shoulder impingement and torn rotator cuffs. You can still do lat pull-downs, but bring the bar down in front of you, no lower than your breastbone. Keep your grip wider than your shoulders. You can similarly adapt military behind-the-head presses.
- Squats on the machine: Many people use the Smith machine for their squats. But the bar doesn’t have any give, which often forces our bodies out of alignment. And chances are, your stance is also too wide on this move. Squats are just as effective without the weights, so learn proper form without the machine. Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and your back straight. Sit down and move your hips back as if you’re sitting down in a chair. Keep your weight directly above your feet throughout the exercise.
For answers to your questions about these and other fitness moves, talk to your personal trainer. Before you start any workout routine, or even if you’ve been working out solo for a while, it’s a great idea to get insight and guidance from a trainer.