Commitment to incorporating exercise into your weekly routine is important for a healthy lifestyle. To make sure that all your effort and hard work at the gym is paying off, we have some tips for ensuring your form is correct. Proper technique maximizes the benefits of each exercise so you will improve your fitness more quickly than you would doing moves with incorrect technique.
Tip #1: Abdominal Bracing When Lifting
Your abdominals are your armor to protect your spine. Anytime you lift something, whether it is a bag of groceries or a fifty pound dumbbell, engaging your core muscles as you do the movement will protect your spine. To brace your abdominal, keep your back in a neutral position and draw your navel back to your spine. Your core should feel flexed, as if you are ready to be punched in the stomach. Use abdominal bracing during various exercises including lifting dumbbells, deadlifting, squats, lunges, running, on cardio machines like the elliptical, and throughout your activities of daily life outside the gym. You can get away with exercising without maintaining a tight core, but you will cause some wear and tear on your back and eventually that damage builds into more serious injury. Protect your spine and prevent back pain with a strong trunk.
Tip #2: Knees Behind Toes During Squats
The proper form for a squat is standing with your feet hip width apart, your hips pressed back and back flat, and your body weight distributed mostly in the heels of your feet. Your knees should not be in front of your toes as you bend down – this helps protect excess force on your patella, your kneecap. The same technique applies for lunges; your legs should be far enough apart that as you kneel your front knee is behind your toes.
Tip #3: Shoulder Alignment
During upper body exercises, it is common for gym goers to compensate for fatigue by rounding their upper back and scrunching their shoulders up toward their ears. This generally leads to a sore neck the next day. Likewise, people often hold stress in that area and tense up their shoulders in a similar manner. Prevent a neck-ache during upper body exercises with these tips: stand up straight, press your shoulders down, and squeeze your scapula (shoulder-blades) together in the back. Focus on that form throughout the duration of the exercise, especially during the last few reps when your muscles are tired. Practice this form in the gym and outside of it as well and you will notice a natural improvement in your posture.