We all have seen it. You are focused on your next set and all of a sudden you look up and see someone doing an exercise that just leaves you scratching your head. It’s like….what magazine instructed you to kill yourself in the gym because that’s what it looks like you’re doing.
I’ve seen a guy who looked like he has never been to the gym before load up a bar on his very first set with 315lbs and attempt a bench press. Needless to say, his rib cage almost shattered, and if I wasn’t looking and able to save him, the damage would’ve been a lot worse. We’ve also seen people perform the worst form on certain exercises that not only make them unproductive but sometimes dangerous. As the saying goes, you want to leave the gym with sore muscles and not sore joints.
This is my first rendition of the most common exercises that are done incorrectly.
Here are the top 5:
1. LYING LEG CURLS
Not only are hamstrings an afterthought for most after they punish their quads, but when they do them they half-ass the leg curl. It is so common that you see people turn their feet out while executing the lying leg curl for hamstrings. Doing leg curls with this flawed form will make you miss the meat of the hamstrings. The proper way is to try to keep your toes in line with your shins. To add to the contraction, instead of lying fully on the pad (chest on the pad), hold your upper torso up by keeping just your forearms on the pad. This will totally isolate the hamstrings and prevent your hips from lifting off of the pad. When the hips lift off the pad it’s a sign that your lower back is coming into play. We want to totally isolate the hamstrings so leave the ego outside and lighten the weight too!
2. BARBELL ROWS
Oh this one exercise makes me cringe when I see people do it. Just because Dorian Yates did 315lb in his classic training video doesn’t mean that you have to do it. First off, standing at an angle of 45 degrees or more is too high and will only target your upper back. The reason why most people cannot go parallel to the floor with their torso is because they complain of lower back pain…then lighten the weight! The lower back will not have to stabilize the weight totally if you’re using an amount that’s indicative of your strength and body mass, not Ronnie Coleman’s. Now on to the row or what I call the snatch by the way some people do it. Snatching the bar with momentum will totally take the back out of a back movement which defeats the purpose. You want to row the bar up and start contracting every muscle in your back before the bar even hits your waist. To take the arms out of it, I kind of imagine shrugging with my entire back. That way I’m contracting from the very beginning of the row.
3. PREACHER CURLS
If your arm barely opens then you need to lighten the weight and use weight that allows you to use a full range of motion. This exercise is great for the lower insertion of the bicep which you totally miss unless you use a full range of motion.
4. SIDE LATERALS
No a bird did not just fly into the gym. It’s just that guy with no delts that trains them every day doing side laterals with more weight than he can shoulder press. Side laterals are great for the medial head of the shoulders and capping off delts. The key is to simply lead with your elbows. Your hands should never be higher than your elbows and as you’re raising the dumbbells, turn your thumbs down as if pouring a drink. Your elbows and hands should not go over shoulder height. To really pump the delts, do not pause at the bottom. Fire those fast twitch muscle fibers and grow.
This is the bread and butter for traps but your traps do not grow faster or get more pumped by rotating your shoulders. In fact you are subjecting your rotator cuff to unnecessary stress. Nor are you shrugging if you have to bend your arms and even your knees in a squatting motion each rep. Simply shrug straight up to an imaginary point behind your head and hold the contraction for an extra second or two.
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