Are you familiar with that guy in the gym who everyone stares at while he’s cranking out noisy, ugly reps with a barbell in his hands? He’s got poor form, and as a result, he’s a weak lifter. Yeah, nobody wants to be THAT guy. Because that guy looks like a tool. And it’s not the only stupid thing he does. He’s got seriously poor posture and his multiple bad habits make you cringe. Even worse, you could have them too – and you may not even realize it yet.
But fear not – we’ve identified the main mistakes you need to avoid making right here. Are you sure you’re not committing any of these gym-crimes?
1. Swinging lat pulldowns
Ugh… This could very well be THE worst habit a weak lifter could have. If you haven’t seen this act, you most likely heard it because the perpetrator is usually grunting pretty loudly.
The mistake is, he puts the pin at the bottom of the weight stack to try to lift the entire thing. Or at least, he puts it really low and tries to lift a huge amount of weight that he has no business attempting.
Then, because the weight is so heavy, he has to compensate by leaning really far back, gaining momentum and pulling the bar down as far as possible. Then he rinses and repeats.
The obvious problem is he’s using momentum to move the weight so there’s just not much muscle innervation going on. He’s also risking injury because he’s moving a heavy load that his joints can’t handle.
You can avoid getting into this habit by going with a modest load, keeping your upper body still and pulling the bar down to your chest in a slow and steady motion. Then slowly let it rise back up until your arms are fully extended and repeat.
2. Kettlebell sqwings
Yes, you read that right. It’s kettlebell sqwings. This is a combination of a squat and swing, and it’s performed by weak-ass lifters who think they know it all.
For the record, a squat is a squat and a swing is a swing. Never mix the two together.
The bad habit happens when someone swings the kettlebell back between their legs and bends their knees until their thighs are roughly parallel to the ground. Then they stand back up, move the kettlebell in front of their chest, primarily with their arms, and repeat.
To avoid this habit, hinge at your hips as the kettlebell is coming down and aim for your zipper. Don’t hit it! Just aim for it.
Then, at the last second, push your hips back as far as you can and let your knees bend slightly by default. Forcefully snap your hips forward and let the kettlebell float its way up to parallel with the ground and repeat. There’s no squatting to be seen!
3. Kipping pull-ups
There is no such thing as a kipping pull-up. You have a kip-up OR a pull-up. Combining the two is like mixing cranberry juice and coconut milk – and just saying those words out loud makes you nauseous, right?
That being said, someone who does tons of kipping pull-ups lacks the strength to do quality pull-ups.
And the mistake is obvious. They gain momentum by flopping their body back and forth like a fish and then get their chin to clear the bar. This is ugly, it uses momentum and the only job being done is by your hands.
Instead, grasp the bar with an overhand, shoulder-width grip and let your body hang straight down. Keep your abs tight and shoulders pulled back as you pull yourself up in a steady, fluid motion.
Stop for a split second as your chin clears the bar, slowly lower yourself all the way down and repeat. This is how to perform a quality pull up.
4. Sloppy push-ups
Nothing quite makes you look like an amateur better than a good old set of sloppy push-ups. Weak lifters love to crucify these once-heralded, military mainstays.
Sloppy pushups happen when you sag your hips on the way down and let your arms flare out too far to your sides.
The former indicates a weak core and the latter is just plain bad form.
You can lock these in by keeping your core tighter than a drum and pressing your arms against your sides. Form a straight line from the back of your head to your heels and don’t sacrifice it for a split second.
When you go down, try to touch your chin to the floor with every rep. If you can’t do this while also keeping your arms in by your sides, then modify by either placing your hands on an elevated object or coming onto your knees.
Summing it up
There’s no excuse for bad form in the gym – and unless you wanna look like a goofball, or do yourself an injury, I suggest you make sure your own form is good.
Not sure? Ask a PT to step in for a session and watch you. The key is, don’t ever assume you know it all. The moment you do that, you stop learning. So don’t be afraid to check you’re following the rules of good form on the regular.
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