When done wrong, these gym exercises may do you more harm than good.
At their best, gym equipment can help you reach your fitness goals more quickly. You get to scale up the resistance and watch your progress in the most satisfying manner. But when used wrongly, certain gym exercises are a sure way to cause strain and injury to muscles and joints.
If you are new to a gym set-up, it’s best to have a trainer (or someone experienced) observe your form. But if you’re on your own, listen to your body and stop once you feel unusual pain. Read on to find out some of the most common gym mistakes newbies should avoid, and what to do instead.
(Also read: 10 Common Mistakes That Make Running More Tiring)
Lat pull-down behind the head
This is a move that runs a high risk of injury, especially if you have inflexible shoulder joints. You may end up overarching the back, straining your neck or even suffer a tear in the rotator cuff muscle.
A safer lat pull-down is to bring the bar in front of your body. Sit straight and grip the bar outside of your shoulders. Pull it down to your chest. Release by slowly returning the bar to the start position before letting go.
Military press behind the head
A barbell press behind the head is bad due to similar reasons – it causes too much stress on the shoulders and has been known to cause dislocation. Without a strong core and back, doing a behind-the-head press can also promote hunchback.
Opt for a military press in front of the body instead. With palms facing outwards, grip the barbell about shoulder width apart and hold it to the collarbone. Lift and straighten the arms. Keep your movement gradual and controlled to prevent injury.
(Also read: Do This 8-Minute Workout To Get Rid Of Flabby Arms)
Leg press with locked knees
Leg press machines are great for working out those thighs and hamstrings. However, the most common error that people make is keeping their legs extended rather than bent. This puts you at serious risk of injury when the weight pushes back against your feet.
To use the machine correctly, keep your knees soft and bent at all times as you push and release. Sit with your back straight and knees hip-width apart. And always keep your entire feet, including the heels, on the plate.
(Also read: 10 Lunge Variations For Longer And Leaner Legs)
Squatting incorrectly on the Smith machine
The Smith machine is great if used correctly – it can help you lift heavier weights while keeping good form. However, this only applies when your body is able to withstand the resistance. Many times, people place their feet too far forward. This causes them to lean back as more weight is placed behind them. If the bar drops, it’ll mean serious damage to the spine or bottom.
Free weights squats are just as effective and are less likely to cause serious injury. Move on to the Smith machine only when you’ve built enough strength. When doing a squat, stand straight with your feet hip-width apart. Keep your back straight and your knees behind the toes as you lower yourself.
Overusing the elliptical machine
While the elliptical machine gives you a low-impact workout working multiple parts of the body including the arms, core and legs, it is also possible to strain the body here too. Your knees are the most vulnerable here, especially if your hips are wider than the foot pedals. This causes the knees to bow inwards, putting stress on the joints. While you can continue to enjoy your time on the elliptical machine, switch your exercises in the gym to avoid injuries from overuse.
(Also read: Are Cardio Workouts the Best Form of Exercise?)