Advertising
Advertising

Workout Form Hacks that Improve Results

Workout Form Hacks that Improve Results

Deploy these simple & smart techniques to improve your workout.

As you go about your workout program, one thing that you must be paying attention to at all times is the form that you’re using. If you aren’t using proper form, you aren’t going to see the results you’re after; this is because you won’t be stressing the muscles in the way an exercise is supposed to be performed.

Worse yet, many people who use improper form are going to be set themselves up for injuries, which is yet another reason why maintaining perfect form is a must. All it takes is moving out of alignment just slightly for severe pain to become a problem.

To help you make sure you are using nothing but the best of form, let’s go over a few common mistakes that you should be avoiding as you perform these popular workouts.

1. Foot Placement During The Squat

Squat Workout Mistake

    The very first thing that you need to be thinking about when performing a squat exercise is your foot placement. The standard squat will have your toes pointing forward, which is great for targeting the quads and hamstrings.

    It’s important as you move through the exercise that your knees align directly over the toes.

    If you let your toes move inward at all, it will instantly put far more stress on the knee joint and potentially cause you to risk serious knee pain.

    Alternatively, one quick and easy way to change around this exercise is to have your feet facing slightly outward.

    This will help target the inner and outer thighs to a slightly larger extent as well, which will then add more variety to your workout program and help to beat a progress plateau.

    Adding this one simple change from time to time can be an effective way to improve your squat.

    2. Back Placement During The Shoulder Press

    Shoulder Press Mistake

      The second form issue to be aware of is your back placement when doing the shoulder press. Many people either accidentally or unconsciously start to develop a sway-back as they perform this exercise, which is then going to cause a high amount of stress on the lower back vertebra.

      With all that weight overhead coming down directly on that lower back, you can quickly imagine the tension that could develop.

      By thinking of squeezing the glutes as well as the abs as you perform this exercise, you will help to maintain far better back alignment. By keeping good back position, you can also help to increase the total amount of weight that you drive upwards, making the exercise more effective.

      The same rules should be applied when doing lateral raises as well as bicep curls, as those are two other exercises that do cause some people to move out of proper back alignment.

      3. Bench Height During The Step Up

      Step Up Exercise

        The next form check that you’ll want to do for yourself is to think about the height of the bench you use during the step-up. If you use a lower bench while doing the step-up, then you’ll be targeting the quads to a larger extent, while if you use a higher bench while doing the movement, you’ll hit the hamstrings.

        The quads will definitely still get activated regardless of whatever step height you utilize, but with the higher the step, the more hamstring activation will be required simply to perform the exercise.

        The same principle also applies when doing the split squat.

        With the step up, the further you step away from the bench, the more hamstring dominant the exercise becomes over just working the quads.

        Both muscles will be worked regardless of what height the step is or how far away from the bench you’re targeting, but it’s the nature of the stress that’s going to differ.

        With this one simple change in how you perform the exercise, you can really change the nature of the stress on the muscle tissues. It’s another excellent way to change up your workout from time to time and ensure that you don’t hit a progress plateau.

        4. Hand Position During The Push-Up

        pushup technique

          Finally, the last of the form checks to look at while going about your workout is with regards to the hand position that you use during the push-up exercise.

          Many people just start off into normal style push-ups, without thinking about the fact that how they position their hands will influence the type of results they get from that push-up.

          If you use a wider than normal hand placement position, you’re going to be targeting the outer chest muscles to a larger degree and may also get a bit of upper back activation as well.

          On the other hand, if you place the hands close together, forming a triangle almost with their positioning, then you’re going to be targeting the triceps to a much higher extent instead.

          You’ll instantly feel the difference in stress loading patterns when making this switch, so don’t be surprised if you do find that you are much weaker when in the triangle hand position.

          The chest muscles will be much less dominant, which are the primary force developers in the push-up exercise, which is why you feel so much weaker overall when performing it.

          With the push-up, you can also use a staggered hand placement approach where one hand is placed higher or lower than the other and you perform the push-up from there. This will get the core activated more as well, really giving a unique twist to the push-up exercise overall.

          So there you have some important form placement hacks to consider as you go about your workout. By having a look at these tehniques, you can both reduce your chances of suffering from an injury as well as increase the results that you get from your time invested in the gym.

          Small changes do make a difference, so don’t overlook them.

          More by this author

          4 Ways To Boost The Intensity Of Your Workout Without Adding More Weight Workout Failure 3 Reasons You Aren’t Seeing Workout Success 5 Killer Tips To Banish Your Love Handles Now Grilled Apples 3 Delicious Low-Fat Summer Cookout Recipes 6 Quick Diet Swaps You MUST Start Making

          Trending in Fitness

          1Is Building Muscle Possible in Your 40s? (Build Muscle the Batman Way) 2How I Lose Weight, Get to 9% Body Fat and Build Muscles with Vegan Diet 3Muscle Building Diet: How to Eat to Lose Fat and Build Lean Muscle 4A Definitive Guide to Healthy Aging (For Older Adults) 55 Breathing Exercises for Anxiety (Simple and Calm Anxiety Quickly)

          Read Next

          Advertising
          Advertising

          Last Updated on June 15, 2018

          What Really Works: How to Relieve Lower Back Pain Effectively

          What Really Works: How to Relieve Lower Back Pain Effectively

          Eight out of ten adults experience lower back pain once in their lifetime. I am one of those people and I’m definitely not looking forward to my participation award. I know how it feels like to step out of bed and barely being able to put on your socks. Having lower back pain sucks. But 9 out of 10 patients that suffer from lower back pain don’t even know the primary cause of it.

          Video Summary

          Back Pain? Blame Our Evolution

          Once upon a time in our fairly recent past, our ancestors felt the urgency to stand up and leave our quadruped neighbors behind. Habitual bipedalism, fancy word for regularly walking on two legs, came with a lot of advantages. With two rear limbs instead of four, we were able to more efficiently use our hands and create tools with them.

          Sadly, life on two legs also brought along its disadvantages. Our spine had four supporting pillars previously, but now it only got two. The back is therefore naturally one of the weak links of our human anatomy. Our spine needs constant support from its supporting muscles to minimize the load on the spine. With no muscle support (tested on dead bodies) the back can only bear loads up to 5 pounds without collapsing [reference Panjabi 1989]. With well-developed torso muscles, the spine can take loads up to 2000 pounds. That’s a 400-fold increase.

          Most people that come to me with a history of a herniated disc (that’s when the discs between the vertebral bodies are fully collapsed, really severe incident), tell me the ‘story of the pencil’. The injury with the following severe pain usually gets triggered by picking up a small, everyday object. Such as a pencil. Not as you may think by trying to lift 100 pounds – no, but by a simple thing – such as a pencil.

          This tells us that damage in your back adds up over time, it’s a so called cumulative trauma disorder. Meaning back pain is a result of your daily habits.

          Sitting Is the New Smoking

          Whenever I sit for too long, my back hurts. In fact, 54% of Americans who experience lower back pain spend the majority of their workday sitting. But isn’t sitting something that should reduce the stress of your back? No, just the opposite.

          The joints between the bones of the spine are not directly linked to the blood supply. These joints instead get nourished through a process called diffusion. Diffusion works because molecules (such as oxygen, important for cells) are constantly moving and try to get as much space for themselves as they can. A key element for diffusion therefore is a pressure difference. In the image below the left room contains more moving molecules than the right, that’s why the molecules from the left are moving to the right. This way nutrition gets transformed into the joints, whereas toxins are transported out of the joints.

          Advertising

          Sitting puts a lot of pressure on your spinal chord. The diffusion process therefore can’t function as efficiently. Nutrition and toxins can’t be properly transported, the joints get damaged.

            Sit Properly

            If sitting can play such a huge part in the creation of your lower back pain, how do you sit properly then?

            Is it better to sit with a straight back or should you rather lay back in your chair? Can I cross my legs when I’m sitting or should I have a symmetrical position with my feet? These are questions that I hear on a daily basis. The answer might shock you – according to recent science – all of them are right. The best sitting position is an ever-changing one. An ever-changing position minimizes the pressure on certain points of your spine and spreads it on the whole part.

              Credit: StayWow

              Stand Up More

              Even better than a sitting position is a stand up position. Standing dramatically reduces the pressure on your spine. If you’re forced to work on a desk the whole day though, you have two options.

              Advertising

              Take breaks every hour of about 2-3 minutes.

              Set an alarm on your phone that goes off every hour! In that time you stand up and reach to the ceiling, on your toe tips with fully extended arms. You’re inhaling during the whole process. You do this activity for 20 seconds. Afterwards you’re walking through the office for the next 2 minutes. You might grab a healthy snack or some water in that time. The exercise relieves the pressure on your spine, while the walking makes sure that the joints on your spine are properly used.

              Or get a standing desk.

              One of the best companies on the market for Standing Desks, according to my research, is Autonomous. Autonomous offers a rather cheap Standing Desk, with the ability to change the height. Which means you can start the day standing and switch to sitting if you’re tired.

              Exercise for Lower Back Pain

              Sitting is an immobile position. Your joints are made for movement and therefore need movement to function properly. If humans are moving, all moving parts: e.g. the joints, bones and muscles get strengthened. If you’re in a rested position for too long, your tissues start to deteriorate. You have to get the right amount of activity in.

              But not too much activity. There’s a chance that going to the gym may even increase your risk of lower back pain. I know plenty of friends with chiseled bodies that suffer from pain in the spine regularly. Huge muscles do not prevent you from back pain. In your training you should focus on building up the muscles that are stabilizing your back and relieve pressure. Squats with 400 pounds don’t do the trick.

              The more weight you carry around, the more weight your spinal chord has to bear on a regular basis. That’s one of the reasons why huge, muscular guys can suffer from back pain too. One of the most important goals of your exercise regimen should therefore be weight loss.

              Here are some important tips for you to consider when starting an exercise regimen:

              Make sure you implement cardiovascular training in your workout routine.

              This will not only help you lose weight, it will also make sure that your arteries, which flow to the tissue next to your spinal discs, are free of placque and can therefore transport nutrients properly.

              Advertising

              Important: If you have rather strong back pain, maybe even an herniated disc, don’t start running on a threadmill. Running is an high-impact exercise. Which means there are continuous, reocurring high pressure points on your spine. Your endurance training should therefore either be fast-paced walking or a training on the elliptical trainer for the beginning, because both have little to no stressful impact on your backbone.

              Focus on developing your whole core if you want to minimize your pain.

              There are some people that do hundreds of sit ups a day. While sit ups are a good exercise for your abdomen, it also puts pressure on your spine due to the bending movement. A sixpack workout routine is one-sided. Your abs may become overdeveloped in comparison to your back muscles. You’ve created an imbalance. A great way to train your abdominal muscles and back muscles simultaneously, is holding the plank position.

              Stretch only if you have tight muscles.

              I remember stretching every morning after I woke up. I took 10 minutes out of my day to just work on my flexibility and prevent injuries. Little did I know that I was actually promoting an injury, by doing so.

              Contrary to common belief, stretching is only partially beneficial to treating lower back pain. Stretching makes sense if tight muscles (such as the hamstrings) are forcing you to constantly bend your back. Stretching to treat pain doesn’t make sense if you’re already on a good level of flexibility. Hyper-mobility may even enforce back pain.

              If you found out that you had tight muscles that you need to stretch, try to stretch them at least three times a week. Don’t stretch your muscles right after you wake up in the morning. This is because your spinal discs soak themselves up in fluid over the nighttime. Every bending and excessive loads on your spine is much worse in that soaked-up state. Postpone your stretching regime to two-to three hours after you’ve woken up.

              Where to Start

              The key to improving your habits is awareness. Try to get aware of your back while you’re sitting down, laying down or lifting an object next time. This awareness of your body is called proprioception. For example, you have to be aware whether your back is bended or straight in this very second. Trust me, it is harder than you might think. You may need to ask a friend for the first few tries. But the change that this awareness can make in your back pain is absolutely fascinating. This consciousness of your body is one of the most important things in your recovery or prevention.

              Here are a few behavioural tactics that you need to be considering:

              Advertising

              If you’re leaning forward more than 30 degrees with your upper body, support your spine with your arms.

              Ever tried to show a colleague of yours a complex issue and found yourself awkwardly leaning forward on their desk, pointing with your fingers to his paper? If that ever happens again, make sure you’re using the not-pointing arm to support yourself on the desk.

              Keep a straight back.

              Be it while exercising, stretching or standing. If you’re bending your back you’re putting stress on small areas of your spinal chord. A straight back redistributes the force to a bigger area. You’re minimizing the pressure. Remember this whenever you’re at the gym and reracking your weights, focus on having a neutral spine.

              Put symmetrical loads on your spine.

              I used to play the trumpet when I was a child. The instrument is pretty heavy. The trumpet gets transported in a big, metallic suitcase – with no wheels. Being the nature of suitcases, you only carry it with one arm, on one side of your body. This forced me to constantly lean on the other side with my upper body, while transporting the instrument from A to B. Not really the healthiest activity for your spine as you can imagine.

              If you have to carry heavy objects, carry them with both arms. Put the object in the middle of your body and keep it as close to your mass of gravity as you can. If this is not possible, try to carry the same amount on the left side than you do on the right side. This puts the stress vertically on a fully extended spine. The load is much better bearable for your spine.

              Stay Away From the Back Pain League

              Our world is getting more sedentary. We will continue to develop faster transportation, more comfortable houses and easier lives. While our technological progress definitely has its amazing benefits, it sadly has its downsides too. The danger for back pain will continue to rise on our ever-increasing motionless planet. It’s time to raise awareness.

              Read Next