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Common Exercise Mistakes

--Working out the wrong way can hurt more than it helps you get fit. Proper technique is essential in achieving benefits from any exercise.

On the June 2 Early Show, fitness contributor Minna Lessig demonstrated some common exercise mistakes and talked about how they can affect a workout.

Lessig says that injuries can result if exercise is not done properly, and poor posture is one of the key culprits of injuries. Improper posture and form can also affect results, since the wrong muscles can be used when the form is wrong.

Here are some common exercise mistakes, and some tips on how to avoid making them:


  • Standing and sitting on a flat bench using dumbbells works the deltoids (your shoulders). Common mistakes people make include: standing up too straight, rotating arms at the wrong time and lifting weight that's too heavy.

  • Standing up too straight means you're not targeting the medial deltoid (the middle shoulder), which is what this exercise is meant to work. Most shoulder exercises work the anterior deltoid, so we want to take advantage of the lateral raise, working the medial deltoid. To do this, you need to lean forward to some degree and you need to understand how to isolate the shoulder joint by squeezing your shoulder blades together and elevating them just slightly (scapular retraction). How far forward a person leans depends on their shoulder anatomy.

  • Another mistake people make is externally rotating their arms as they lift the weight upward. This causes major stress to the shoulder joint.

  • Lastly, many people will lift weight that's too heavy for them, and then they compensate for the extra weight by leaning forward and rising up to a straight position. That places stress on the lower back. It makes it harder to cheat (although it's still possible) when you do this exercise sitting on the flat bench.


  • The most common mistake is using too much shoulder (deltoid) to help in the movement. Scapular retraction (squeezing your shoulder blades together) to isolate the chest more during presses is important.

  • Also, another common mistake is bending the elbows and lowering the arms down farther than the shoulder joint. That places stress on the shoulder joint. It's important, instead, to lower down so the arms are bent at 90 degrees and in line or parallel with the floor.


  • A triceps kickback is done standing in a bent-over lunge position. Isolating triceps muscles by keeping the arm bent and tucked in by the side is important. To do a triceps kickback properly, you also have to lean forward to ensure the direction of the resistance targets the triceps.

  • Common mistakes are people tightening up their traps (raising their shoulders up towards their ears) and people using too much momentum to perform the movement.


  • Your head must be in line with your neutral spinal position. It should be relaxed, as should your neck. Your hands can be behind your head or at your temples, but never pulling on the head. Many people, when their abs start to get tired, start doing neck crunches--the only thing moving is their head.

  • Also, important is the squeezing your abdominal muscles inward as you lift upward and exhaling as you do so. People unaware of this, naturally push their abdominal muscles outward as they crunch, and thus develop the musculature in this fashion--to protrude outwardly. It is not about how high you lift in a crunch, but how hard you squeeze.

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