Crimes Against Growth Part II
By Admin | Thursday, March 19, 2009 12:59:30 PM America/New_York
Are you a law-abiding citizen when you train? Heck, most of us tend to consider ourselves conscientious enough when it comes to exercise form. You might even get a chuckle when you see others doing this or that move incorrectly, thinking to yourself, "That poor sap, doesn't know what he's doing." Sometimes, however, poor form isn't so obvious. And - reality check - you're likely just as guilty as the next guy of doing something improperly. We covered 12 of the most common blunders in part one of this story, and here, we reveal 12 more. The good news is, it's never too late to turn away from a life of criminal exercise performance. Review these common mistakes, admit your wrongdoing, and dedicate yourself to walking the straight and narrow from now on with our expert advice.
1) Leg Extension
Crime: Allowing your knees to bend beyond 90 degrees in the bottom position
The leg extension seems simple enough: Sit down, place your legs behind the ankle pads, and extend your knees. But there's a slight yet critical error you can easily make, depending on the mechanics of the particular machine you're using. Because your thighs are fixed in place as you rep, shearing forces can build up in your knee joint '" these are exacerbated when you bend your knee past 90 degrees (i.e. bring them slightly up underneath you). To combat this, stop the descent when your shins reach 90 or just before. Another tip: Don't extend explosively upward into a knees-locked position at the top. A smooth and controlled rep on the way up and on the way down will help keep your knees healthy for the long term.
2) Lying Leg Curl
Crime: Lifting your hips off of the pad
This common problem is a result of using a flat-style leg-curl bench: Lifting your hips off the pad as fatigue sets in puts your hamstrings in a stronger biomechanical position, thus helping you complete more reps. Unfortunately, it also puts your lower back at risk for strain. Thus, the answer here is to use a lying leg curl machine with an angled bench, which lifts your hips up while supporting your torso during the exercise. If your gym only has the flat-style, you may want to consider alternate hamstrings exercises, such as one-leg machine curls, seated leg curls and Romanian or stiff-leg deadlifts.
3) Romanian Deadlift
Crime: Rounding your lower back in the bottom position
The Romanian deadlift is an incredibly valuable exercise in developing complete hamstrings '" strong hams help stabilize the knee joint by counterbalancing the powerful quadriceps muscles on the front of your thigh. However, gym-goers the world over all too often break a critical rule, allowing their back to round in the bottom position. Not only does this place your lumbar region in a dangerous position ripe for injury, it takes emphasis away from the muscle groups you're attempting to target. Instead, stabilize your spine by tightening the surrounding muscles, holding it in its natural arched position while performing the movement from the hip joint. Also note, there's no need to stand on a raised platform or a bench in an effort to extend your range of motion; it doesn't make the exercise any more effective than bringing the bar down to about mid-shin level.
4) Lat Pulldown
Crime: Leaning back excessively as you pull the bar down
When training the back, there are two essential planes of motion to work in: Rowing-type movements, and pull-up/pulldown movements. Both are vital for complete development, which makes this error a costly one. During a pulldown, many have a tendency to lean back, which essentially turns the pulldown into another row. Sure, it puts you in an advantageous position as far as being able to lift more weight, but you don't reap the benefits provided by the pulldown's upright angle of attack. Instead, save the rowing for other exercises in your routine '" for pulldowns, sit up in the seat and bring the bar down to your upper chest, concentrating on the contraction of your lats and upper-back muscles.
5) Bent-Over Dumbbell Lateral Raise
Crime: Rocking your torso up and down as you rep
This wrong move is usually born out of a desire to lift too much weight. The target of this exercise, the rear delts, are generally small muscles, and aren't equipped for the heavy dumbbells you may be otherwise used to heaving in your workouts. By incorporating a bounce in each rep for momentum and recruiting the more powerful muscles of your back, you can lift a lot more than you could if you controlled each rep via a focused contraction of your rear deltoids. Drop the weight and do it right, with no mo' and plenty of concentration, to develop your rear delts to their full potential.
6) Upright Row
Crime: Placing your hands too close together on the bar
It's hard to say where this bad habit, passed from generation to generation, originally came from, but upright rows should not be done with the hands side by side on the bar. This way-too-close grip doesn't provide an ounce of benefit, and worse yet, it compromises your wrist joints on the ascent. Place your hands at or just inside shoulder-width apart, and lead with your elbows as you lift the barbell up along your body toward your upper chest; your delts (and your wrists) will thank you.
7) Flat-Bench Dumbbell Flye
Crime: Letting the weights collide at the top of the rep
You may think you're working intensely if you powerfully contract your pecs to bring the dumbbells up in an arc over your chest, where they meet with a clang at the top. In fact, that impact immediately removes stress from your pectorals, essentially allowing your chest to rest at the top instead of getting a maximal contraction. For flyes (as for most exercises) control is the name of the game. Lift in a deliberate manner, either squeezing the dumbbells together forcefully at the top '" without letting them crash together, of course '" or stopping an inch short of touching as you give your pecs a strong squeeze before starting the descent.
8) Alternate Dumbbell Curl
Crime: Leaning your body to each side as you bring the corresponding dumbbell up
A lot of people could be cited for this particular transgression. Incorporating a swaying movement to help bring each dumbbell up doesn't necessarily feed the biceps, but it sure feeds the ego, as the momentum helps move a heavier dumbbell. Throw in an extra tweak at the apex (where you shift your elbow directly under the handle, essentially allowing the biceps to rest at the top), and you get an exercise that's not doing you a whole heck of a lot of good. Instead, keep your body still as you bend at the elbow, forcing your biceps to do the work. Sure, the dumbbells you can use will probably be lighter, but aren't bigger biceps more valuable than bigger weights?
9) Triceps Cable Pressdown
Crime: Leaning over the bar as you push it down
The pressdown is yet another victim of a widespread transgression, the chronic use of too much weight during arm training. If you drop the pin deep down on the weight stack, then proceed to lean forward, shifting your shoulders over the handle as you finish each repetition, you're guilty of not letting your triceps take on the bulk of the workload. Pressdowns should only involve movement at your elbows, nowhere else. Lock your elbows at your sides '" envision a steel rod running through your body holding them in place if it helps '" and remain upright as you push the handle down.
10) Dumbbell Kickback
Crime: Bringing your arm too far forward, then using momentum to lift the weight
This slip-up is so common, you'll often spot it in otherwise respectable magazines and training textbooks. For this exercise, you bend at the hips, place your non-working hand on a bench or fixed object for support and, with your other upper arm in tight at your flank, you extend your elbow to lift a dumbbell back and up in an arc. The problem arises on the way down, where the working arm crosses past a 90-degree angle before beginning the next rep. Instead, to keep the triceps under constant tension, stop the descent just before your elbow reaches 90 degrees and begin the next rep '" this eliminates the momentum generated by bringing the dumbbell too far forward, and doesn't allow the triceps to fully relax at the bottom.
11) Hanging Leg Raise
Crime: Repping in a way that causes your body to swing
To perform hanging leg raises, you either hold a pull-up bar or set your elbows on the pads of an upright leg-raise bench and bring your legs up in front of you, forming a 90-degree angle with your body. The exercise uses the weight of your legs and gravity to put your abs through their paces, and can be extremely effective '" unless you swing your legs so hard that your body sways to and fro. It's much better to follow the letter of the law, and perform the move slowly and under control, forcing your abs to handle the workload. Count 3-4 seconds as you bring your legs up and slightly curl your lower back, pause while contracting your core strongly at the top, then lower your legs back to the start.
12) Decline-Bench Crunch
Crime: Not "curling" your upper body off the pad (i.e. remaining flat-backed on the ascent)
What would you rather sport at the beach: A stellar set of hip flexors, or a killer six-pack? You may covet the latter, but you are probably doing your decline-bench crunches in benefit of the former. To flex your abdominal wall, you need to shorten your abs, and thus your lower back correspondingly must curl. If, on the other hand, your back remains flat as you do decline crunches, your hip flexor muscles are driving the movement. On any abdominal exercise (including hanging leg raises mentioned above), make sure the distance between your ribcage and pelvis is shortening '" if even only a few inches '" on each rep. That way, you'll be sure to squeeze results out of every set.
Did you miss part I? Crimes Against Growth