Considering how much time, effort, and energy you put into your workouts, you want to feel confident that your hard work is paying off. But even an exercise veteran can fall victim to improper alignment and muscle recruitment when exercising. “It’s challenging to know where your body is in space,” says Katie Mann, San Diego-based club Pilates master trainer. “If we can’t see the error in a mirror or monitor, we have to rely on our mind-body connection to inform us of proper movement
patterns.” Without an efficient mind-body connection, our only other roadmap to improper alignment or technique is injury or pain. And certain moves are more likely to be performed incorrectly than others. We asked top trainers to share the fitness moves they often see performed incorrectly—and how to do them right.
Torso Rotation Exercises
Working your obliques and side body, with a Russian twist, for example, is great. Oftentimes, though, people focus too much on their arms, as this is easier than concentrating on your actual abs. “When [doing] standing, kneeling, or seated torso twists, it’s important to rotate from around the sides of the torso, not just move your arms side to side from the shoulders,” Mann says. “Ground force should begin in the feet and go through the hips and torso to exit from the arms and hands.”
To ensure activation of the obliques, Mann recommends exhaling upon exertion as you twist your torso. “Exhaling physiologically contracts the obliques via the connection to the rib cage,” she says.
They look easy enough, but lunges are often performed incorrectly. “In all lunges—front lunges, reverse lunges, lateral lunges, and curtsy lunges—poor knee alignment is typically the culprit when it comes to improper technique and mistakes,” Mann says. “Taking too short of a step in the direction that you are lunging is an easy error that affects the knee alignment.”
She suggests making sure that your knee tracks behind your foot and is in line with your second toe. When front or reverse lunging, place your weight on your heels rather than your toes. This will activate the glutes and keep the weight away from the front of the knees, she adds.
Nearly all ab exercises incorporate the crunch technique in some way or form. The problem is that if you’re not doing them correctly, you won’t reap the benefits and you can injure yourself. “When I see people pulling so hard with their arms to get their neck off the floor, or jamming their chin into their chest and just lifting their head, I worry,” says Hope Pedraza, ACSM-certified personal trainer and founder of inBalance in San Antonio, Texas.
“Instead, keep the elbows out to the side and have light pressure on the back of the head. Keep a small space between the chin and the chest and, instead of leading with the chin or the head, engage the abdominals to get the shoulder blades off of the floor.”