15 Most Common Exercise Mistakes – and How to Avoid Them


15 Most Common Exercise Mistakes – and How to Avoid Them

Feb 20, 2015 //


It’s important to break a sweat, but it’s even more important not to make mistakes when you do it. If you don’t exercise the right way, you can experience burnout, injure yourself, and even risk chronic muscle imbalances. Here are the most common exercise mistakes people make and how to correct them.

1. Rounding Your Shoulders

Rounded shoulders aren’t a beneficial posture in everyday life and they’re especially harmful during exercise movements. It’s important to use proper posture with shoulders your rolled back and dow. Make sure they aren’t scrunched up by your neck and head. Maintain this upright position throughout not only your exercises, but daily life too. It will help you avoid injury, work the correct muscles and gain strength.

2. Skipping Rest Days

Yes, you can have too much of a good thing. While you think of exercise as a positive experience, your body perceives it as stress. This stress elicits a need for repairing and rebuilding. Guess what happens on the day you rest? Repairing and rebuilding! Your body becomes stronger and faster on your rest days as a result of the hard work you did when you exercised. Don’t discount the power of rest and give your body a break when you’re tired and sore.

3. Forgetting to Breathe

This one sounds so simple, but it’s actually so often done. Don’t get so into your workout that you hold your breath as you move through your routine. Start each movement with a centering breath and rhythm and hold that focus throughout the entire exercise. This will provide you more oxygen for better performance.

4. Not Changing Things Up

Variety is key to exercise. If you constantly work the same muscle groups, then you’ll only develop those muscles in a specific range of movement. To achieve a fit body and avoid injury, it’s best to cross-train. Mix up your workouts to keep your body guessing. If you always do regular biceps curls, try hammer curls to hit a different part of the muscle. This will not only be better for avoiding a plateau, but it will keep you challenged.

5. Using Bad Form for Squats

Squats are an essential full-body movement to include in your workouts. But it’s crucial to complete them correctly, especially if you’re loading them with weights. When you sit back into a squat, glance down and make sure you can see your big toes. You should be back far enough that your knees don’t go over your toes at the bottom of the movement. This will keep your knees safe and free of injuries.

6. Skipping a Warm-Up

Although it’s tempting to cut to the chase, it’s never a good idea to forgo the warm-up portion of your workout. This is the time your body needs to get your blood pumping and muscles firing. Prior to your workout, you should do dynamic movements such as side bends, trunk twists, squats, arm circles and shoulder shrugs. You’ll know you’re warmed up when you begin to break a sweat.

7. Skipping a Cool-down

Skipping a cool-down is right up there with forgoing warm-ups. It’s essential to give your body a chance to release tension and reach a more stable state with an even breath. To do this, it’s important to incorporate some deep breathing, static stretches and slow movement such as walking t the end of your workout. An ideal cool-down is about 10 minutes long.

8. Not Aligning Your Neck

A neutral neck is incredibly important when performing any exercise movements, but especially when weights are involved. If your neck isn’t aligned, it can mess up your entire kinetic chain and then cause injury. Lining up the neck in a neutral position helps ensure the rest of your body will follow suit. To find the correct alignment, stand against a wall with your shoulders back and neck against it. Move away from the wall and notice the corrected form compared to how you normally hold your head up. Work on fixing this during both everyday life and in the gym.

9. Lifting Your Heels

Unless you’re performing calf raises, it’s not a good idea to raise your heels during movements. Focus on keeping your feet firmly planted on the ground with your toes spread out. The weight should be distributed evenly across the bottom of the foot. This will keep you centered and help you avoid injuries or losing your balance during an exercise.

10. Moving In a Limited Range of Movement

Muscles need to be used in a variety of motions to become adaptable, balanced and functional. If you don’t switch up your exercises, you may end up creating a dominant muscle group or side of your body. Muscle imbalances can lead to injury, so look for all forms of exercise that can strengthen and tone your body.

11. Doing Deadlifts With a Rounded Back

The deadlift is an important movement for increasing strength in the back, especially the lower back. That said, the deadlift needs to be done with correct back alignment. This means a flat back and a neutral neck. Avoid hyperextending your back, which will end up causing back pain. Activate your core and keep it strong throughout the entire movement.

12. Performing All Cardio or All Strength

Avoid becoming solely focused on either cardio or strength. You need both to become fit. Structure your workout schedule so you’re including weight-bearing activities to strengthen your bones and muscles. You also should be getting your heart rate up a few times per week with intense exercise such as sprints. But avoid chronic cardio, as it can cause injuries and inflammation in the body. It’s all about the balance between the two.

13. Losing Neutral Alignment During a Plank

Planks are a difficult exercise – it’s tough to keep a tight core and flat back while holding the pose. If you lose alignment, you’re no longer working to strengthen the core and could be agitating other muscle groups. Focus on breathing, firing the core and keeping your midsection horizontal. If you find that your form is slipping, come back down to the ground and try again after some rest.

14. Not Going Low Enough During Push-Ups

When performing a push-up, make sure you’re touching your chest to the ground at the bottom of the movement and that your arms reach a 90-degree angle. Going all the way to the ground ensures you’re working the muscles through the entire range of motion.

15. Talking Too Much While Exercising

If you like to chat during your workouts, listen up! All of talking may be interfering with proper mouth breathing. This means decreased oxygen to your tissues during movements and worse performance. Talking also can distract you from proper form and focus. So it’s best to put your conversation on pause while working out.



Maggie Young

Maggie is an associate editor for Fitness Republic, American Council on Exercise certified personal trainer and fitness nutrition specialist, occupational therapy student, and freelance writer for various health and fitness publications. She believes that a healthy diet, daily movement, stress reduction, and quality sleep are the foundation of happiness.

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