Common Exercise Mistakes
And How to Correct Them Before You Injure Yourself
By Chelsea Cooper, MPA, CPT
The right way versus the wrong way to exercise; now this is a topic that needs to be discussed more often. Just the other day, a friend of mine told me she had injured her chest muscle while doing Pilates. Of course, her training was unsupervised; in her case, she was following along with a DVD. She went to the hospital and was diagnosed with a torn chest muscle. Who would think someone could seriously injure themselves by doing Pilates on a DVD? It happens more frequently than you think. And if you can hurt yourself doing Pilates, you can definitely hurt yourself while working out at the gym lifting weights or using any of the equipment.
It's a Question of Form
All of my clients know I am a stickler for form. I don't care how much weight you are lifting or how many times you can perform an exercise; if your form is not correct, you need to reduce the amount of weight you are using and/or slow down. I'm a stickler on form for two important reasons:
#1 Safety (Injury Prevention). Correct form is key when doing any exercise. In fact, it's the first thing you must master! If not, you will eventually injure yourself. If you aren't sure if you are doing something correctly, please get a competent professional to assist you.
#2 Effectiveness. If you want to get the most out of your workouts, you have to use correct form. There is a right way to exercise and a wrong way to exercise, and this applies to each and every exercise you perform. Exercising is an art form that takes years to master. But let's face it; the average person does not see it that way, and that is why so many injuries occur and/or motivation disappears.
Most people have no clue how to do a proper squat, push-up, lunge, leg press, chest press - you get the idea. Lack of proper form is the number-one cause of injuries. Most people in the gym look around for someone who has a body they want and then try to mimic the same exercises the person is doing. Sometimes the person they are looking to as an example does have the correct form, but that doesn't mean you can mimic it correctly. It may have taken them years to learn how to do it the right way. But most of the time, the person they are looking too as a model saw someone else do the exercise and they are doing it wrong as well. It's a vicious cycle.
The general rule for repetitions and sets is straightforward: If you are trying to gain muscle or get stronger, you want to do low reps and higher sets. For example, you may be doing a leg press and you are trying to get stronger (hypertrophy), so you put on a heavier weight and do 6-8 reps per set for 4-5 sets. On the other hand, if you are just trying to build endurance and lean out, then you should do higher reps and lower sets; typically 15-20 reps per set for 2-3 sets. Now there are some middle reps and sets as well, like 10-12 reps/5-6 sets, but these are the basic rep/sets. The point is, it's important to understand how different sets, reps and even the types of exercises you perform affect your body. Again, talking to an exercise specialist will help you determine the best way to achieve your fitness goals.
Right Way, Wrong Way: 9 Exercise Mistakes
Start Off Right
And let's not forget about the right and wrong way to exercise in general. As I mentioned earlier, exercise is an art form and since most of us have not taken the time to master the proper techniques, we should 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 can also be a good source of information, particularly if they specialize in exercise and rehabilitation protocols. After all, you wouldn't just jump into a pool and expect to start swimming, right? Learn the right way to exercise from day one. When it comes to fitness goals, it isn't about how quickly you achieve them, because more often than not, going too quickly will end up being the slowest, most painful route. Exercise the right way, stay safe, and enjoy the journey.
4 Movements to Avoid When Exercising
Chelsea Cooper, MPA, CPT, is certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine as a personal trainer, performance enhancement specialist, and rehab and exercise specialist. To learn more, visit www.trainwithchelsea.com.