Well, the title is self-explanatory. I plan to address these issues in videos, demo-ing both the incorrect and the correct version of each exercise. It must wait until we are done house-breaking our new little man pictured below - as you can imagine, it is tough to film videos with two dogs running around the house!
In the meantime, remember NOT to do the following things for these popular exercises.
1. Lunge: Slanting forward. When the front knee passes the toes, the load hits that joint, rather than when you press the heel in and recruit more of the glute. The legs should always be bent in two 90 degree angles. The torso needs to be straight and not bent forward, so make sure that your shoulder and back knee are in line.
2. Push-Ups: Trying to get your face to touch the ground, OR taking the chest right the the ground and releasing while you're down there. People often think that if they stick their face forward, they are somehow getting better range on motion. But the muscle in question doesn't! So, look slightly forward when you do a push-up. This neutralizes the neck / spine, gives you a better expansion through the chest - therefore a better range of motion for the pectorals' contraction - and gives the core a bigger challenge. Also, coming too low to the ground can overstretch the anterior delts, which is not only bad for the shoulder joint, but it also takes the load off of the chest (and often the core, too). So, get a full range of motion without having the muscle release completely, and without compensating into the shoulder joint.
3. Lateral Raise: Using locked straight arms. People do this one ALL the time. By locking your elbows in a lateral raise, you are carrying the load on the elbow joint. This is a double whammy: not only are the delts not working as they should, but the tendons in the elbows are becoming stressed. Make a slight bend in your elbow as you lift, exhale, and notice the difference in how your delts activate and carry that weight.
4. Crunch: Leading with the head and elbows. You never want to throw yourself up to point B from point A, and to hope to have crunched by default. This compromises thorough activation of the abdominals. Exhale, close the gap between the ribcage and hipbone, and as a result the head, neck and shoulders will move upward.
5. Plank: Having a swoop in the low back. When the lower back is curved or swooped down slightly in a plank, it means that the abs are not engaged enough to be supporting and straightening the spine. The plank is a battle between the abdominals, and gravity which is pulling your lower spine down. Your job is to close the abs (tightening between ribcage and hipbone) in order to press into the spine, and straighten it.
6. Lower Back Extension: Lifting the head up and back like in upward dog. If you are working on strengthening and isolating the lower back, keep the head very neutral. Then you can keep the concentration of closure along the lower end of the spine. Exhale and contract the muscles along the lower spine to lift the rest of you - like in a crunch, the head, neck and shoulders FOLLOW the contraction in the desired region.
7. Squat: Dipping beneath a 90 degree angle in the legs. Some powerlifters may disagree with me here. Bear in mind, I work diligently in the department of injury prevention, strength without discomfort and sustainability / rehabilitation of the joints. Squatting TO 90 degrees gives you enough of a stretch through the glutes (dig the heels in), quads and hamstrings to get a full and powerful range of motion, with disrupting the knee joint at all. Again, keep the load on the muscles and not the joints.
8. Lat Pulldown / Row: Swinging your back to meet your hands or the bar. That's really not the idea. If you are trying to get the muscles beneath the scapula to activate properly, close them without any momentum from the rest of the body. Lean back slightly, inhale, and as you exhale you should be bracing the core, protracting the shoulder blades and then letting the rhomboids and lats effectively pull the weight of that bar toward your sternum (lat pulldown) or abdominals (row).
9. Shoot, I'm running out. Bicep Curls: Swinging the weights up. Again, in a bicep curl, are you trying to strengthen your biceps? Or are you trying to risk injuring everything else around them? Argh, my attitude is coming out. The biceps lies between the shoulder and the elbow. Therefore, those two joints must be perfectly stabilize, in order to isolate the load onto the bicep. The wrists need to be straight and still so that wrist flexion / extension doesn't compromise the range of motion that is meant to be the sole responsibility of the bicep. Therefore, stabilize absolutely EVERYTHING (core included - a big one) before exhaling and curling with exclusively the bicep.
10. Running, jumping rope, plyometrics: Landing heavily. The impact of these three activities (among others) should be absorbed by the muscles involved, and not the joints. When you force yourself to land with little to no noise, you will be tightening and absorbing the shock through the muscles - therefore conditioning them - without negatively impacting the joints. Voila.
And remember, during ANY strength exercise, locking your joints while you're loading and lifting with the limbs is a huge no-no. The fastest way to be ripped off of your time and effort, and the fastest way to get hurt (read: no more gym for you anyway).
Tell your friends.
*Feature photo cred: mensfitness.co.uk