11 Common Exercise Mistakes (that drive me crazy)
1.) When stretching, make sure you are warm first. Don’t come into the gym when you are cold, and go straight into a static stretch. Your muscles aren’t warmed up yet and you could pull something. Work up a light sweat first, either by doing some light cardio or just trying to ‘lubricate’ your joints up with arm swings or hip swings. You can do your nice long stretches that you are holding at the end of your work-out.
2.) Hamstring stretch – Don’t stretch with a stretchy strap! Stretchy straps such as thera-bands and other elastic bands are used to provide resistance in order to strengthen your muscles, not stretch. If you are stretching with the help of a strap, that is fine, but make sure it’s not working against you. It should be a material that doesn’t stretch too easily like a towel, belt, or dog leash. That way when you pull on it, it doesn’t serve as a counter force, but rather an extension of your hand.
3.) Upper trap stretch – When stretching your neck, side-bend away from the side of the neck you want to stretch– just make sure you keep that shoulder down. Otherwise, you are not effectively stretching your neck muscles. It may help to use a strap or towel to keep your shoulder down if you are having difficulty with this, or use a mirror for visual feedback.
4.) Gastroc stretching on a stretch board – I always notice people leaning forward from their hips. You will get a better stretch if you keep your body in a straight line, so you are just hinging from your ankles, not your hips. Think of your belt buckle coming forward as you stretch.
5.) Squat -When performing a squat, there are several things to remember. 1.) I hate seeing someone squat with their knees coming past their toes –bad!! Make sure your knees stay over your foot/ankle when you squat down. 2.) Also make sure your knee is tracking over your feet. Don’t let your knees roll-in. When I see this, I know there is some hip/glut weakness going on. 3.) Make sure you are sticking your butt out when you squat down. I know if feels funny, but doing a squat correctly isn’t about feeling proper here, it’s about protecting your back. You should have a small arch in your low back. Stick your butt out like you are going to sit in a chair.
6.) Ankle thera-band exercise – When performing a thera-band exercise for your ankle, especially when you are moving in ankle inversion/everison (toes in and toes out), make sure just your knee isn’t moving. I often see people moving their knee and rotating their whole lower leg in and out, but it’s important to isolate the ankle movement.
7.) Pelvic tilts – Often a difficult exercise to understand if you are not used to engaging your deep abdominal muscles. I instruct people to think of pulling their belly button in and pressing their low back into the floor. Remember to breathe! I always teach this by telling patients to exhale as you go into your pelvic tilt. You are less likely to hold your breath this way. Also, make sure your ribcage is dropped down, sometimes people like to splay their ribcage out.
Same thing applies when doing a plank–which you should be performing your pelvic tilt in. I thought it would be easier to see this with a plank than simply a pelvic tilt.
8.) Tabletop Abdominal Exercise – Any time you are performing an exercise on your back with your legs at 90/90 or tabletop position, in order to effectively work your deep abdominals, make sure your knees aren’t pulled too closely into your chest. When your knees are too far into your chest, your abdominals are not engaged.
9.) Heel raises – Make sure your weight is between your big toe and the second toe and your ankles are straight. I often see people shifting their weight to the little toes and this makes the outside of your ankles stressed.
10.) Lat Pull Down or any shoulder exercise – The first step should be to make sure you shoulders are down and scapulas engaged. If not, you are not effectively working your shoulder stabilizers. When working on good posture or any shoulder pain or injury, this step is really important. Make sure your shoulder blades are set in place first –you will feel this in your upper back!
11.) Straight leg raise – As the name indicates, keep the working knee straight. This is true whether you are performing this exercise to the front, side, or back.
A common mistake I always notice when doing your straight leg raises to the side, (or as I call them, my Jane Fonda exercise) make sure you are not flexing in the hip. Your leg will be further behind you then you think. It should form a straight line all the way down your leg. Otherwise you are overworking your psoas (hip flexor) and tensor fasciae latae (the muscle part of your IT-band). Instead, you should be targeting your gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus.