Just because you’re doing an exercise the way you’ve always done it doesn’t mean you’re doing it right. We get it: Nothing gets under your skin quite like some random dude at the gym telling you your form is off. Even if you know he’s right, you immediately hate that guy. (It’s cool, we do, too.) But the bitter truth is he’s usually right. (And if he cares enough to say something, you should probably thank him.) Ignore him and, well, you’re setting yourself up for hurting a lot more than just your pride. Instead, prevent injury—and a wounded ego—and correct the most common workout mistakes that we’ve noticed guys making in the gym.
MISTAKE 1: JERKING THE BAR UP ON DEADLIFTS
The deadlift is an aptly named exercise: You lift “dead” weight off the floor. Because you’re not putting momentum behind each rep (unlike with the bench press or squat, where the stretch reflex kicks in to help you lift the bar), deadlifts make you overcome inertia with brute force. Still, guys try to “wind up” for each rep any way they can, including bending their elbows in the starting position in an effort to yank the bar up. All this does is cause you to bend over more, losing tightness in the upper back and causing youto round your lower back. This is a lower back injury waiting to happen, not to mention a biceps injury (a heavy deadlift will straighten your elbows whether you like it or not). Instead, set up with your chest facing forward and arms extended so you take the slack out of the bar—the bar itself should be flush against the top of the holes in the weight plates you’ve loaded on it, so there’s no extra movement that needs to occur before the weight begins moving off the floor. Keep elbows extended and the bar pulled in tight against your shins. Angle your head down with eyes forward as you lift.
MISTAKE 2: SQUATTING WITH THE WRONG STANCE
The width of squat stance is individual to you. The general prescription is to place your feet shoulder-width apart, but there’s an inch or so of variance that can greatly impact how the exercise feels on your hips and the amount of weight you can move. The placement of the hip sockets in the pelvis is different in everyone, and your foot placement needs to accommodate that. Here’s how to find the right stance for you: Get down on your hands and knees and push your butt back toward your heels. Pay attention to your pelvis—when it begins to tuck under and your lower back loses its arch, stop pushing. Adjust your knees and repeat the test, experimenting until you find the placement that lets you comfortably push your hips back without rounding your spine.
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