In this week’s post I aim to offer some simple tips for exercises that can commonly be performed wrong in the gym. Technique is hugely important when exercising and when an exercise is performed incorrectly not only do we inhibit our potential for positive adaptions, but we can also place our joints in comprised positions and increase the likelihood of injury. Here are a few simple tips to help.
1. When using the leg press, keep the lower back pressed firmly onto the pad
When using the leg press machine, either with both legs or on a single leg basis, it is highly important to keep the lower back (lumbar) pressed onto the chair pad. This stops the spine from entering a compromised position and places greater force on the glutes and quads, whilst minimizing excessive force placed on the lower back.
2. When performing bicep curls, don’t swing the elbows
When bicep curling it is important that the shoulder and elbow stay set in place and that the only movement is a hinging at the elbow, with the forearm moving up and down. From a side view the upper arm (Humerus) should be still throughout the whole exercise with absolutely no movement in the shoulder. If you find yourself needing to swing to curl, then the weight is too heavy. By adopting correct technique in the bicep curl we place a greater emphasis on the biceps and remove dangerous force from going through the shoulder. As a result, we achieve enhanced muscle growth.
3. When using the seated row or lat pull down, keep the shoulders still
Both the seated row and lat pull down are excellent machines for working the muscles of the back. However if we allow our shoulders to move through the exercise we take away some of that potential. On the seated row it is easy to allow the shoulder to reach forwards or pull backwards with the movement. When performed correctly the shoulders should stay still with just the arms moving. Similarly with the pull down, the handles go up and often so do the shoulders. Again we should look to avoid this and keep our shoulders ‘set’ with only our arms moving. A further tip for the pull down- if you find yourself rising out of the seat, the weight is too heavy.
4. Holding on to the rails on the treadmill
Now, I appreciate that some people will need to hold onto the rails when using the treadmill for injury or medical reasons, but if we don’t need to then we shouldn’t. Holding on to the rails will naturally put ourselves into a bent over position, putting unnecessary force on the spine. Stand tall and if we need to, reduce the speed or incline slightly. Although this may seem like a backwards step, in time with better technique we will be able to walk, run or jog at this pace easily without the need to hold on.
5. Don’t rush
When performing an exercise there’s no need to rush through it just to complete the reps. Take time on the lowering part of the exercise and then drive through forcefully on the effort, concentrating on technique throughout. For example, when using the chest press and our arms are extended, slowly lower the handles to the chest, before forcefully pressing back out. Also, between reps make sure we have enough rest so that our energy stores are fully recovered to perform the exercise again, this is typically between 30 seconds to 3 minutes.
These are just a few simple tips which should help when in the gym. If you would like to discuss these further please do next time you see me in the gym. Following on from this week's post, look out for ‘Tom’s Tips’ shown on the TV screens throughout the club, as well as the usual blog posts. Thanks for reading, and as always if you need advice with any exercises please don't hesitate to ask any member of the fitness team!