It’s always disappointing to me to hear that people think exercise is hurting them and causing them injuries.
Strength training is one of the best things you can do to protect your joints and ligaments and stave off achey backs.
There’s a caveat though: your form has to be spot on. And at New Image we spend a LOT of time and attention making sure exercises are being performed correctly.
This is why I recommend that everyone has at least a few sessions with a personal trainer or exercise physiologist to monitor their form and pick up on any underlying injuries, issues and deficiencies when they start weight training.
So many people say that they will get a bit fitter first then see a trainer. This is a mistake. Get advice first so you don’t hurt yourself. Nothing to be embarrassed about, we all start somewhere!
Our experts weigh in: the biggest form mistakes
I asked our trainers to coach us through the biggest errors they see in the gym. We’ll be covering these off over 2 posts. This week we’re starting with our head Exercise Physiologist Domenic and our Pilates expert Courtney.
1) An inadequate warm-up – Domenic Nasso
The standard warm-up most people do is 5 minutes on a cardio machine. That’s fine if your goal is to warm up your body from the Winter cold, but that’s about all it does.
The ideal warm-up actually prepares your body for what you are going to ask it to do. Using my formula below you should actually be allowing at least 10 minutes for a proper warm-up.
Here’s my simple strategy for the ideal warm-up.
- 2-3 minutes on a cardio machine – to literally “warm” the body
- 2-3 soft tissue exercises – we have lots of fun and painful self massage tools so use them! Grab a foam roller, trigger point ball or a stick and hit 2-3 muscle groups.
- 2-3 active stretches – I won’t bore you with why static stretching should be avoided pre session, but the golden rule here is to keep each stretch under 30 seconds and keep them active.
- And finally 2-3 activation exercises – choose 2-3 exercises that target your hips, torso and/or shoulders.
Now that may seem like a lot but it’s all about efficiency. Once you get into a routine of doing this it will become second nature, and will really improve the quality of your workout and keep injuries away. Just like everything practice makes perfect so give it a try and if your’re not sure then just ask one of our fantastic trainers.
2) Dodgy ab curls/crunches – Courtney Hermosura
The humble “ab curl” or “crunch” has been a staple in fitness regimes for a long time and doesn’t seem to be as much of a priority when it comes to technique and doing the movement properly. I’m going to get a bit nit-picky here but it’s really important to get this exercise right for optimal activatoin.
In my experience the main issue with core work is posture.
Our sedentary lifestyles mean that we sit, stand and walk around with poor posture most of the day, so it’s no wonder we struggle to keep our bodies in alignment when we get into the gym.
When looking at doing core work we need to ensure that our spine’s in the best possible alignment throughout each movement. Remember: your neck is an extension of your spine!
I like to remind people and show them what their posture would look like if when they stood up they kept the position they’re in during their crunches. We would never walk around with our necks pressed so far out we look like a pigeon bobbing its head around! Here are my three main tips to ensure we are in correct posture and getting proper deep core activation during ab curls.
- Neutral spine with coccyx bone (the last bony bit of your spine just above the butt) pressed into the floor.
I see most people when trying to activate what they think is their pelvic floor and deep core muscles (T-Zone) squeeze their bum and lift it off the floor to try and help them with their ab curl. This is incorrect posture and will compromise the effectiveness of the exercise.
Ensure your spine is nice and long on the mat, press that coccyx bone into the matt and watch to see that your hip bones are pointing towards the ceiling. Being in neutral spine you may find you have a small gap between your lower back and the mat but this is ok since that is what your posture looks like when you are walking around, we want your core to be strong and able to engage in its proper position.
- Inner thigh squeeze.
To help stabilise the pelvis and ensure that the glutes (butt) muscles are not activated as well as helping our T-Zone to activate deeply, a simple trick is to squeeze your inner thighs together tightly.
Imagine you have a tennis ball (or even place a tennis ball) between your knees and try to squash it. The activation of the adductor muscles (inner thighs) helps to activate our T-Zone and gives us another reminder not to tuck our pelvis under and activate the glutes. T-Zone and adductors are activated only.
- Neck pressing forwards (the pigeon bob).
The first thing people do when performing an ab curl is they stick their chin out and press their head forwards.
This is terrible for our neck muscles and just compounds the issues of tight traps and neck that the majority of us suffer anyway.
Remember that the neck is an extension of your spine so we want to keep it in good alignment throughout the movement. To do this, place your hands firmly behind your head and actually press your head back into your hands. Your arms should have to do a little bit of work to counteract the pressure you are exerting as you press into them.
The actual movement of the ab curl comes from the ribs. Try to slide your bottom rib as close to your hips as possible without letting your tummy peak up during the movement. This is not easy!! There are a lot of points to think about but the more you can practice good posture and correct activation of the T-Zone you will improve and so will your posture.