Are you using proper form on these 3 common gym exercises?

Are you using proper form on these 3 common gym exercises?

As a certified fitness trainer, I catch myself analyzing the way people move. So when I see someone in the gym using improper form, I cringe. They’re pinching their ligaments and constricting their tendons in ways that could cause long-term pain. Use proper form on three common exercises by following these tips:

The lat pulldown

The lat pulldown is one of the best exercises for building the latissimus dorsi — the long, broad muscle in the back. To properly perform this exercise, sit at the machine with your lower back slightly arched, and then bring the bar to the top of the chest. Abigail Eaton, a chiropractor at highly rated Eaton Chiropractic and Rehab Center on the Northeastside of Indianapolis, recommends engaging the lower lats by bringing the shoulder blades together when pulling down the bar. Eaton also says to avoid pulling the bar behind the head. This places the neck in an unnatural position. Over time, not using proper form while performing a lat pulldown can lead to shoulder impingement. “[It’s] a painful condition in which the muscles or tendons of your rotator cuff become entrapped in your shoulder joint,” says Laura Minor, personal trainer and owner of highly rated So.Be.Fit near Broad Ripple.

The lunge

Lunges seem simple, but it’s important to pay attention to using proper form. I suggest stepping forward and keeping the eyes focused forward. Then slowly lower the back knee toward the ground. “While your knee may come forward a bit, you should focus on taking the body down as you lunge rather than forward,” Minor says. 
“It’s a good rule to keep the front knee in line with your second toe.”

There is a possibility that if the knee exceeds the toes, it can cause pressure and damage knee tendons. Eaton says studies show it may only be a problem for those with existing knee problems. Our advice: Be safe and avoid lunging too far forward.

The abdominal crunch

Crunches are another exercise often done incorrectly. Eaton suggests placing the fingertips behind the ears and keeping the chin pointed toward the ceiling, with the head 
in a neutral position. Slowly lift 
the upper body off the ground, 
while engaging the abdominals 
and keeping the lower back tight to the floor.

Eaton says curving the spine 
with the hands clasped tightly behind the neck puts strain on the neck and back and barely engages the abdominals.

Remember, proper form can 
save you a lifetime of tendon damage and joint discomfort, and it’s best to talk to a personal trainer before embarking on any new 
exercise regimen.

Kelsey Taylor is a certified personal trainer with the International Fitness Professionals Association, a sports nutritionist and a strength training instructor with more than 12 years of experience. She works at Angie’s List as the wellness director.


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Improved flexibility can make it easier to hold proper positions and reduce the risk of injury, says Lewis. (Photo by Karen Geswein)
Improved flexibility can make it easier to hold proper positions and reduce the risk of injury, says Lewis. (Photo by Karen Geswein)

To avoid repetitive motion injury and a need for physical therapy, frequent position changes and simple stretches are important at the computer or on the road.

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