Perry says that when it comes to squats, especially when the exercise is performed with a barbell on the back, the mistake he sees most often is caved in knees. "Proper squat form requires that the knees track directly over the toes, so they don't fall inward, or outward," says Perry. He says this mistake is most likely the result of weak glute muscles or tight inner thighs. "A combination of glute strengthening exercises and loosening up the inner thighs with stretching and foam rolling may help improve form.".
"When done incorrectly, the deadlift is a very dangerous exercise that can cause serious harm," says Perry. According to him, the biggest exercise offense for the deadlift is a rounded back. He explains: "A few possible causes of a rounded lower back include, not squatting down far enough so that your legs help lift the weight up, poor hip flexibility, which makes it nearly impossible to keep a neutral spine when bending down, or poor thoracic spine mobility (upper back) to help you keep your shoulders back and low back straight as you lift the weight."
A fairly simple exercise that doesn’t require much equipment besides a bench or a mat and your own bodyweight, the triceps dip exercise strengthens the muscle above your elbow at the rear of your arm. “I see the most mistakes when members perform triceps dips on the floor,” says Outlay. She says that bad form is usually related to arm position and hip engagement. “Hands should be placed close to the sides of the body (shoulder-width distance apart) and directly below the shoulder, with fingertips pointing forward,” she says. “Placing the hands too far behind the shoulders or with fingertips turned out instead of forward, reduces the effectiveness of the exercise and places stress on the shoulder and wrists. To keep focus on the triceps instead of hips, engage the core by squeezing the abs and glutes and concentrate on keeping a stable core position while bending the elbows.”
Anderer says that kettlebell swings are an explosive exercise great for working the entire body but that she very frequently sees people performing them wrong. “This exercise should look like it flows, and if it doesn’t you’re probably doing it wrong,” she says. “Many people have the rhythm wrong, which could cause injury.” To perform this exercise properly Anderer explains that your feet should be shoulder-width distance apart, your knees slightly bent, and your gaze straight ahead. “Hold the kettlebell (pick a weight that’s not too heavy) in between your legs with both hands and an overhand grip. During the swing you should have a slight arch in your back and your hips should be bent back until the kettlebell is between and behind your legs,” she says. “Squeeze your glutes and push your hips forward to finish the swing.”
An example of a standing oblique exercise provided by Outlay is the side bend with a knee lift or the “elbow to knee” exercise. She says that exercises like this one are often performed improperly because it’s more difficult to engage the right abdominal muscles while standing up instead of lying on the floor. “We need to be more mindful of engaging the abdominal muscles to work against gravity instead of just lifting the arms and legs,” she says. “To make standing ab work more effective, begin by squeezing the abs and kegels to lift the pelvic floor so they remain contracted throughout the exercise. When lifting the knee, really focus on squeezing the abs to assist with the lifting motion and bending at the waist. Also, focus on contracting the obliques on the opposite side of the body to lift the torso back to the upright position.”
The walking lunge is a functional exercise that’s great for building strength in the glutes, hamstrings, and quads. However, two common mistakes that Anderer observes frequently include poor foot and knee placement. “I see many people pushing on their toes, which will not give them the full benefit of this exercise. Your leading foot should be completely flat on the ground, pushing mainly on your heel, which you will feel in your quad,” she says. “You then squat down with both legs, where your back leg should come close to, but not touch the floor. Your back should be straight and chest should be up. Your leading knee should not cross over your foot.”
One of the most basic strength training exercises, the bicep curl is fairly easy to perform. Yet Anderer frequently witnesses gym-goers who execute this move with inadequate form. “A lot of people think lifting a ridiculous amount of weight with a swing is the correct way,” she says. “Doing a dumbbell bicep curl slowly and without a swing will prevent you from hurting your back, and you will isolate the bicep muscle much more which will get you better results.”
The plank is a simple but effective ab-strengthening exercise that targets almost every muscle in the body. Being that there’s no motion involved, it’s a fairly straightforward exercise, but when it comes to planks Anderer still sees a few common mistakes. “A plank is supposed to look like a straight line from your head down to your toes, but most people push their hips in the air which makes the exercise less challenging and as a result, less effective,” she says. Two important tips to remember: keep a neutral neck and spine and squeeze your abs and glutes.
Perry calls the bench press a classic exercise, but he says that when performed improperly it’s also notorious for causing severe shoulder problems. “The most common benching mistake is flaring the elbows away from the body, which puts significant pressure on the rotator cuff muscles that help stabilize the shoulder,” he says. “Keeping your elbows closer to your body as you bench makes the exercise much safer and more fluid.”