Proper form is the key to a good workout. Form not only ensures that the right muscles are being engaged, but that you aren’t putting undue stress on yourself or risking injury. In the heat of a workout, it can be hard to consciously maintain form at all times – especially if you’re working out alone and not in fitness classes. But a few simple pointers (and maybe a helping hand from a physical trainer at your Fitness Connection) can help you stay on form and on track.
Deadlifting is a true all-around exercise that uses every muscle in your body: arms, forearms, hands, shoulders, traps, back, core, posterior and legs are all engaged in a genuinely functional movement that’s relevant to your everyday life. Ever moved furniture or picked up a child? You’ve done a deadlift.
You’ve probably also done it wrong, but don’t worry: a lot of people do, and it’s easy to fix. Here’s how to do a proper deadlift form at the gym: Place your feet under the barbell hip width apart, angled slightly outward. Bend over and grip the barbell with both hands at shoulder width, then with a slight bend in your knees, bend until the bar almost touches your shins. Keep your spine neutral – no curving or bending! – then flex your glutes and engage your core. Pick the bar up from the ground by pushing down into the floor with your feet, through the heels. Keep pressing until the barbell passes your knees, then thrust your hips forward until you’re standing up. Reverse your movement until the bar is back on the ground, keeping the bar close enough to your shins to brush them.
Planks are a crucial part of any workout, as they engage your entire body in a safe position. (Among other things, they’re a killer abs workout.) They are also tough to get right, but with a few pointers you can own the plank and transform your workout.
Plant your hands directly under your shoulders like you’re about to do a push-up. Ground your toes in the floor and squeeze your glutes and push your hands into the floor to keep your body stable. Your entire body should be engaged in a proper plank, and that includes your legs: be careful not to lock or hyperextend your knees. Keep your neck and spine neutral – an easy way to do this is to look at a spot on the floor a foot above your hands. Your head should line up with your back. Now, hold that position for 20 seconds. As you get more comfortable with this position, hold it for longer periods of time – without changing position.
Like deadlifting, lunges are a highly functional exercise with a lot of day-to-day life use. And also, like deadlifts, a lot of people get it a little bit wrong. Here’s how to do them right, and some common mistakes to avoid.
First, stand tall with your feet at hip-width, and engage your core. Take a big step forward with your right leg and start to shift your weight forward so your heel hits the floor first. (Just don’t pop your heel off the floor when you shift forward.) Lower your body until your right thigh is parallel to the floor and your right shin is vertical. Your right knee can shift forward, but not past the right toe. If your mobility allows it, tap your left knee to the ground while keeping your weight in your right heel. Press into your right heel to return to your starting position, then repeat on the other side.
Have any questions, or need a little extra help with your form? Come to your local Fitness Connection. We have physical trainers and fitness experts on hand who can help you achieve perfect form and a better workout.