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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Avoid Common Exercise Mistakes


The most important goal when undertaking any exercise program is not to build muscle, burn fat, increase cardiovascular capacity, or anything else. Those are important, but the number-one priority is to keep from being injured. That's the only way you'll have a real chance of reaching your fitness goals. Here are four movements to avoid when exercising, along with a few exercises that are often performed incorrectly:

1. Don't use jerking motions, especially when lifting. Speed is fine when done appropriately, but you should always have fluid motion and proper form when performing any and all exercises; otherwise you could strain or even tear something.
2. Don't use body parts not required for the exercise. Have you ever seen people doing biceps curls and rounding their shoulders or arching their backs? Those are just two of the big no-no's that can lead to injury.
3. Don't lock out your knees or elbows. Never lock your joints when working out; keep them slightly bent so the weight will not be transferred to the joints.
4. Don't arch your back. Picture someone on the barbell bench press, lifting a weight that is actually too heavy for them. Chances are that eventually, they will start arching their back. Sooner than later, that back is going to give out and they won't be able to exercise for days, weeks or even longer.

Push-ups. The wrong way: You should never have a dip or arch in your back or lock your arms. The right way: Arms should be underneath you and not locked, back parallel to the floor. Engage your "core" the entire time (squeeze your glutes and draw in your belly button).

Walking lunges. The wrong way: When performing a lunge, extending the front knee past the front foot will cause injury at some point. The right way: When you are in a split stance, go straight down and do not let your front knee go past your foot.

Squats. The wrong way: Knees coming forward over your toes. The right way: Perform this exercise as if you were sitting back on a chair and putting 80 percent of your weight on your heels. Then lean slightly forward so you won't fall back.

Chest press. The wrong way: Lifting the weight using your back (high arch). The right way: Keep your back flat and relax your shoulders while lifting the weight.

And let's not forget about the right and wrong way to exercise in general. Get some expert advice prior to working out. Most gyms have personal trainers who will give you a free consultation and show you some basic machines and correct postures. Your doctor is also a good source of information, particularly if they specialize in exercise and rehab protocols.

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