Just because you aren’t using any equipment when you exercise, it doesn’t mean you can’t injure yourself.
Personal trainer Allison Lambert of Fit Tutor in Portland, Ore., says when you don’t exercise with proper form, you increase the risk of getting hurt.
“It could be a direct injury from one rep, or by putting unnecessary strain on your joints, you can develop pain or issues over time that can require rehab or surgery,” she tells Global News. “Another risk is that proper form also ensures you’re getting the most out of your workouts. You will use the muscles that are supposed to be targeted during certain exercises. This helps make you stronger, leaner, and burn more calories.”
Alfred Ball, practicing kinesiologist of Lifemoves Health and Rehabilitation in North Vancouver, says other common mistakes include not maintaining a stable spine and forgetting to breathe during each exercise. He adds most people also continue to exercise, even when they are fatigued.
“Doing this will introduce and reinforce poor movement patterns that could lead to injury in the long-term,” he tells Global News.
Below Lambert and Ball share the most common mistakes people make with popular no-equipment exercises. They also share tips on how to fix form.
What you’re doing wrong: “The most common mistake I see is people bend their arms out to the side when they lower down. This can put strain on your joints and isn’t very effective. Instead, you should lower yourself down slowly, keeping your elbows close to your body,” Lambert says.
How to fix it: Lambert says keeping the core tight prevents your hips from sagging, and helps you get the most from the exercise. “It’s also helpful to think about how you would use your arms if you were to give someone a shove. Your hands start by your chest and your elbows are out at about a 45-degree angle.”
What you’re doing wrong: Ball says most people don’t understand the plank is a full body exercise. Lambert adds the butt or hips should not be sagging.
How to fix it: Ball suggests holding yourself as if you are in an upright standing posture, and maintaining a straight line from your ears to your shoulders down through your hips, knees, legs and ankles. Focus on tightening your hips, thighs, abdominal muscles and pressing up into your upper back.
What you’re doing wrong: “The most common mistake I see people making with a crunch is that they use either momentum or muscles [rather] than their abs,” Lambert says. Ball adds crunches add too much stress on the spine and should not be done if you have recurrent back pain or osteoporosis.
How to fix it: Lambert says planks are better for getting flat abs. Ball believes there are other exercises that can help you build a stronger, more functional core.
What you’re doing wrong: People think more about the skipping motion than landing properly, which can be hard on the joints, Lambert says.
How to fix it: When you’re skipping, focus on landing softly on the balls of the feet to protect the joints, especially in the knees.
What you’re doing wrong: Lambert says for this exercise (simultaneously raising arms, legs, and chest off of the floor to hold), people rush through it. “You’re still working your muscles that way, but by pausing at the top and slowly lowering yourself down, you get more out of the exercise,” she says.
How to fix it: Keep the neck in line with the rest of the spine to avoid straining.
What you’re doing wrong: Ball says in order to complete a proper burpee, you must be able to do a plank, complete a push-up and a proper squat. “Errors and injuries happen during fatigue, it is a plyometric exercise so the point is not fatigue, but proper technique,” he says.
How to fix it: Ball suggests perfecting form on those other exercises and then going into a burpee. Lambert adds sticking the butt behind you will help keep the knees from going over the toes (during the jump), which helps ensure better form.
What you’re doing wrong: Experts say many people lead with the knees instead of the hips. “If you notice that your squat starts with your knees driving forward, then you’re putting them in danger,” Lambert says.
How to fix it: Ball says start by standing in a vertical plank, keeping the spine straight and lead with the hips as if you were sitting down in a chair. Pressing firmly through the feet into the ground and using the legs to stand up will help you perfect the squat.
Lambert says when you lead with the hips, you will notice a difference. “This helps to prevent your knees from going too far over your toes as well, which helps make sure you’re using the right muscles and preventing injury.”
What you’re doing wrong: “People lift their hips high while doing the exercise, and it becomes much less effective,” Lambert says. Ball adds others move their legs too quickly.
How to fix it: Ball says in order to do a proper mountain climber, start in a plank position with your arms straight and hands underneath your shoulders. Hips should stay still as you bring your knees towards the same elbow. Only go as far as you can keep your spine straight and the flexibility in your hips allow. The amount of upper body stillness you can maintain will limit how fast you can move. As with all the other exercises remember to breathe.