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Getting fit in 2021? Common workout mistakes we always make and how to fix these

There’s something about a fresh new year that makes you want to break out your exercise gear. And while we fist-bump you for wanting to work out more, it can be easy to get swept up by the enthusiasm and simply emulate the workout videos you’ve watched or you think you know what you’re doing.

Before you roll out the mat or step onto the gym floor, hit the pause button for a bit and consider: Do you know how to execute the exercises correctly? Sometimes, the exercises aren’t even complex ones but fundamental movements that you may have been executing incorrectly all this while without realising. Or it could simply be the post-“circuit breaker” inertia that’s contributing to the poor form.

What are these common mistakes and what can cause them? We spoke to the fitness experts for the answers and what to watch out for.

COMPLEX EXERCISES = BIGGER GAINS BUT …

You’re probably ready to take on more challenging workouts after spending weeks on basic exercises since the circuit breaker period. But sometimes, you may miss out the finer points for more complex movements, which can lead to injuries.

“You’re engaging more of your muscles and working them harder when you perform exercises that require you to understand how to stabilise yourself, find your balance, and combine your upper and lower body power,” said Thabata Da Costa Manso, a strength and conditioning expert with Evolve MMA. That is a lot of information to process but that is exactly why “the effects are great”, she said.  

  • ONE-ARM KETTLEBELL CLEANS

  1. Keep your back flat and engage your core muscles at all times. Swing the kettlebell back between your legs to gain momentum and drive the swing forward and up. 
  2. As you straighten your torso with the upward momentum, keep your elbow tucked in, and squeeze your glutes. 
  3. Rotate your wrist to stop the kettlebell on the shoulder.
Workout mistake kettlebell cleans
Mistake #1: Turning the move into a bicep curl by using the arm muscles.

Workout mistake kettlebell clean 2

Mistake #2: Forgetting to rotate your wrist to prevent the kettlebell from hitting it. 
 
 
(Model: Hiroki Akimoto, ONE Championship athlete. Photo: Kelvin Chia)
 
 

Common mistakes: The momentum used is powered at the hips, but it is a common mistake to turn the move into a bicep curl by using the arm muscles instead. Don’t forget to rotate your wrist to prevent the kettlebell from hitting it.

Consequences: Lower back and elbow aches.

  • LUNGES

  1. Stand with feet apart and take a step back. Ensure stability before making the next move.
  2. Keep your back straight and core engaged. Lower yourself by bending both knees to 90-degrees angle. Your weight should be evenly distributed on the lunge down, with more power on your front leg as you push yourself back up.
Workout mistake lunges 1
Mistake #1: Not putting enough power on the front leg or losing stability at the start position. 
 

Workout mistake lunges 2

Mistake #2: Don’t raise your front heel; you need to keep your foot flat on the ground for stability. Also, if your knees are not forming 90-degree angles, you’re not executing the lunge correctly. 
 
(Model: Hiroki Akimoto, ONE Championship athlete. Photo: Kelvin Chia)
 

Common mistakes: Not putting enough power on the front leg or losing stability, thereby reducing the effectiveness of the lunge. Don’t raise your front heel; you need to keep your foot flat on the ground for stability. If your knees are not forming 90-degree angles, you’re not executing the lunge correctly.

Consequences: Knee joint and ligament strain.

  • ALTERNATING ONE ARM AND ONE LEG PLANKS

  1. Position your hands parallel to one another, directly under the shoulders. Align your hips to your shoulders. Keep your neck and spine in a neutral position. Engage your core and pelvic muscles at all times to stabilise your body.
  2. Once stable, extend and raise one arm and the opposite leg, elongating your body as far as possible.
Workout mistake alternating planks 1
Mistake #1: Not engaging your arms, shoulders and core to hold your body in a plank position, resulting in a rounded or collapsed back.
 

Workout mistake alternating planks 2

Mistake #2: Don’t lift and flex the alternating arm and leg higher than the neutral position of the plank in an attempt to maintain balance. 
 
(Model: Hiroki Akimoto, ONE Championship athlete. Photo: Kelvin Chia)
 

Common mistakes: Not engaging your arms, shoulders and core to hold your body in a plank position, resulting in the rounding or collapse of your lower back. Also, don’t lift and flex the alternating arm and leg higher than the neutral position of the plank in an attempt to maintain balance. Another mistake is going too fast; take your time. The key is stabilisation while engaging your core and glutes.

Consequences: Soreness and joint tension in the neck, shoulders and lower back.

MISINFORMATION FROM YOUTUBE VIDEOS

Many people have been exercising to workout videos on YouTube and why not? Your coveted time slot at the gym could be full, the videos are free and you still get to keep active.

Fitness professional Darwin Ramirez from Virgin Active agreed that these online workouts do have a role in inspiring people to stay active. However, he highlighted that not everything you see is accurate and works for you.

“People consume so much online content from the wrong sources,” he said. “They basically watch random YouTube videos and apply the exercises to themselves in the gym. They get cues that are generalised but don’t realise they don’t work for everyone.”

  • SQUATS

  1. Stand with feet wider than hip-width apart, toes pointed slightly out. Torso-wise, keep your ribcage stacked above your pelvis. Hold the kettlebell or dumbbell at your chest.
  2. Send your hips back and bend your knees to lower yourself as far as possible. Keep your lower back neutral.
Workout mistakes squats
Mistake #1: Sinking into a squat position with rounded shoulders. Plus, tiptoeing and raising the heels when you come up.
 
(Model: Darwin Ramirez. Photo: Kelvin Chia)
 
 

Common mistakes: Passively sinking into a squat position with rounded shoulders instead of controlling your movement throughout. When coming back up, watch that you don’t tiptoe and raise your heels.

Consequences: Low back pain, joint pain in the knees/ankles and spinal misalignment.

  • KETTLEBELL ROWS

  1. Adopt a staggered stance with only the ball of your back foot on the floor. Keep your torso almost parallel to the floor. Rest your non-working arm on a chair in front of you.
  2. Pull the kettlebell up by driving your elbow to the ceiling. Control your movement on the way down.
Workout mistakes kettlebell row
Mistake #1: Bringing the kettlebell up with your bicep instead of pulling from the elbow. 

Workout mistake kettlebell row 2

Mistake #2: Rotating through your hips and upper torso when you row the kettlebell up.
 
 
(Model: Darwin Ramirez. Photo: Kelvin Chia)
 
 

Common mistakes: Bringing the kettlebell up with your bicep instead of pulling from the elbow. The other mistake is rotating through your hips and upper torso.

Consequences: Low back injury.

  • DIPS

  1. Position two seats with a gap just wide enough to fit your hips (if you’re using chairs with backrests, place them against a wall for stability). Place your hands on the corners of each chair closest to your body, with elbows straight. 
  2. Step out in front with your feet and rest only the heels on the floor.
  3. Lower your hips by bending your elbows slowly to an angle that feels comfortable. Push up until your elbows are almost locked out.
Workout mistake dips
Mistake #1: round the shoulders and rigidly locking the elbows. 
 

Workout mistake dips 2

Mistake #2: Flaring out your elbows too far to the sides.
 
(Model: Darwin Ramirez. Photo: Kelvin Chia)
 

Common mistakes: There is the tendency to round the shoulders and rigidly lock the elbows. When coming down, watch that you don’t flare out your elbows too far to the sides, which forces the elbow angle to be lower than what feels comfortable.

Consequences: Elbow pain or tendonitis, muscle strain and shoulder injury.

EXERCISE IS A SKILL THAT CAN GET “RUSTY”

Like any skills such as riding a bicycle, your exercise skills can also get “rusty” if you stop practising, said Leon Tan, a fitness instructor with Fitness First. “If you’ve been doing basic body weight exercises at home, you probably can retain the skills. A lot of gym-goers come back a little rusty after the circuit breaker,” he said.

  • PUSH PRESSES

  1. Hold the barbell over your shoulders while keeping your chest tall and back tight. 
  2. Push back your hips and bend your knees in a half squat.
  3. Press the barbell straight overhead with your arms by your ears, and head slightly forward.
Workout mistake push-press 1
Mistake #1: Don’t push your knees forward; you should be doing so with your hips instead. 

Workout mistake push-press 2

Mistake #2: At the top of the movement, don’t lean back.
 
 
(Model: Leon Tan. Photo: Kelvin Chia)
 
 

Common mistakes: Don’t push your knees forward; you should be doing so with your hips instead. At the top of the movement, people also tend to lean back too much instead of standing tall.

Consequences: Lower back, knee and shoulder strain.

  • KETTLEBELL SWINGS

  1. Bend at your waist, and engage your core at all times to maintain a tight and flat back. Keep your arms loose.
  2. Power the upward swing through your hips to about shoulder height. Ensure your arms are not doing the lifting. Squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement.
  3. Let the momentum bring your arms down to between your legs.
Workout mistake kettlebell swings 1
Mistake #1: Don’t squat; bend at the waist instead. 

Workout mistake kettlebell swing 2

Mistake #2: Don’t use your arms and shoulders to swing the kettlebell. A sign that you’re using your arms instead of momentum is the kettlebell will hang down at the top of the movement.
 
 
(Model: Leon Tan. Photo: Kelvin Chia)
 
 

Common mistakes: You’re supposed to bend at the waist instead of squat. Also, don’t use your arms and shoulders to swing the kettlebell; you can tell if you do so when the kettlebell hangs down at the top of the movement.

Consequences: Arm and shoulder strain.

  • STANDARD PUSHUPS 

  1. Get down on all fours, placing your hands slightly wider than your shoulders. Straighten your arms and legs.
  2. Bend your elbows to lower your body until your chest nearly touches the floor. Pause, then push yourself back up.
Workout mistake pushups 1
Mistake #1: Don’t round your back at the start position. 

Workout mistake pushups 2

Mistake #2: Don’t relax your back and flare out the elbows when you lower yourself. 
 
 
(Model: Leon Tan. Photo: Kelvin Chia)
 
 

Common mistakes: Get the start position right by not rounding your back. Keep your back tight by pulling back the shoulders. Also, don’t relax your back and flare out the elbows; instead, keep the elbows pointed at about 45 degrees.

Consequences: Shoulder joint stress.

Source: CNA Lifestyle

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