Anderson says that pull-ups are probably one of the all-time best exercises you can do for overall upper body strength, but that he sees them performed improperly way too often. “For instance, many people are not quite strong enough to do a proper pull-up,” he says. “I give them full credit for trying, but if you are barely going through any range of motion or swinging so violently in order to get yourself up to the bar there may be a better alternative until you build up your strength.”
“Assisted pull-ups make a great alternative for you to go through the entire range of motion of the pull-up, which is one of the things that makes pull-ups so great,” Anderson says. He also noted that they help to keep your body in control of the movement and that you can use them to gradually work with less resistance until you’ve built enough strength to do a proper pull-up on your own. Try using a resistance band (as pictured to the left) for assistance. Ensure full range of motion by pulling all the way up through the top of the movement, making sure to raise your chin above the bar.
“These machines are great for people that want to keep their range of motion to a minimum or that need the stability of a machine, like people with shoulder problems,” Anderson says. But for the rest of us, this rigid piece of equipment might reduce the full effect of the exercise. “Having the full range of motion can help work some of the smaller muscles in the shoulder,” he added.
“This is a great alternative because, as mentioned earlier, it allows you to work all the smaller muscles of the shoulder,” Anderson says. “For lateral raises, at the peak of each raise—shoulder or ear height— ensure proper form by making sure that your pinky is the highest part of your hand.”
“This is a good exercise,” Anderson says. “But there are many things that beginners can do to mess it up.” He notes that sometimes people use too much weight, which can easily lead to injury. Just picture someone laying down holding a very heavy weight over their head; it’s not a great position to put yourself in. “It works your lats, but there are other exercises that accomplish this in a safer manner and even more effectively,” he says.
“Performing the exercise this way allows you to really concentrate on using your lats to move the resistance,” Anderson says. “Instead of worrying about having that weight overhead you can intensely focus on contracting your lats.”
“Pick almost any abdominal machine in the gym, more likely than not it only works the rectus abdominus,” says Anderson. That is, it only targets one section of the comprehensive group of muscles that make up your core. He says that many people believe ab machines can help them achieve chiseled abs (which he notes isn’t possible unless you pay very close attention to your nutrition, too), but the truth is that working with them won’t help you achieve an overall stronger core.
Plank your way to a stronger core! “Not only do planks help strengthen the rectus abdominus, but also the obliques, inner abdominal muscles and the lower back,” says Anderson. Try incorporating all different types of plank exercises into your routine. Pictured left: forearm plank, side plank and high plank.
“Lat pulldown machines are great for people with joint problems but they can limit your range of motion,” Anderson says. “When possible, you always want the full range of motion during any exercise to really work the muscles to the fullest extent.”
Anderson says this exercise is a better choice because the underhand grip will provide a wider range of motion while also effectively working your lats and biceps.
“Bicep curls are an effective way to work your biceps when done properly,” Anderson says. “But many times this exercise ends up being performed where the elbows are widely flared out or the shoulders and the entire body are used to throw the weight up.”
“Concentration curls are a good alternative because they solely work the bicep, but they also really make you focus on your form,” Anderson says. “With your arm propped against your knee or inner thigh you can’t use the rest of your body to move the weight, only the bicep is worked.”