Hitting the gym and getting a sweat on is a good thing. Burning calories, building muscle and improving your cardiovascular is, by general consensus, good for you. But as with everything, it’s easy to get into bad habits, especially if you’re working out on your own without the help of a personal trainer.
We spoke to some top PTs to find which exercises you’re probably doing wrong, and what damage that might be doing to your body.
1. The Deadlift
“This is a very effective strength exercise when performed with good technique,” says Jenny Garside, personal trainer and co-founder of Fit For Keeps.
“But executing the deadlift with poor technique can lead to lower back problems and injuries. The common error when deadlifting is trying to lift too much, which compromises your form and allows your lower back to round. This causes your spinal discs to become compressed and in some cases can result in a herniated disc.”
Sit ups are generally the go-to exercise when trying to work your abs, but Matt Hodges, transformation coach and founder of the MPH Method, says they’re not worth it.
“Sit ups or ‘crunches’ are a terrible exercise,” he says. “Those who do it tend to always pull on their necks and don’t know how to engage the stomach correctly in the first place. There are far better options for training your abs, like planks, woodchops, and the best of them all, hanging leg raises.”
3. Hip Thrusts
This is where you lie with your shoulders on a bench and feet on the floor, knees bent and a barbell on your hips, then push your hips up. “Hip thrusts are a great exercise for shaping your bum,” explains Nadia Hussain, personal trainer and founder of The Body Odyssey.
“But some people push through the toes rather than the heels, which takes the focus off the glutes. Your hamstings should be nice and relaxed, and you push up through your heels; pushing through your ties puts a lot of strain on your knees and lead to knee injuries, which are very common.”
4. Weighted Abdominal Side Bends
Jonny Rees, personal trainer at Mayfair-based UpFitness, is not a fan of this exercise.
“These just aren’t a great exercise. There are many alternative ab exercises that are infinitely better,” he says. This exercise puts your back into a vulnerable position and, Jonny says, has very little benefit. “I see people doing kettle bell swings wrong too – which is potentially very damaging for the lower back,” he adds.
“I’m always repeating lunge technique in my workout videos,” says Julia Buckley, founder of Julia Buckley Fitness. “Most people lean over the front thigh the push the knee forward and make it more of a forward-back motion.
“If you’ve ever experience knee pain doing lunges, there’s a good chance that’s what you’re doing wrong. The key is to step forward then think of the exercise as an up-down movement. The shoulders should stay pointing upwards. Aim to keep the front knee aligned over the ankle. It can come forward a little, but it definitely shouldn’t push out over the toes and make sure the knee is pointing in the same direction as the toes, not tilting inwards or outwards.”