Those of you who know me, know I’m a firm believer in the critical importance of regular exercise. When you workout with me, you’ll quickly learn I’m a stickler for performing an exercise with proper form and posture. Correct exercise form is critical to avoiding injuries and making sure you get the maximum benefits from the movement you’re performing. Incorrect back exercise form poses an increased risk, because this area, especially your low back, is an area you don’t want to strain. If you do, it can cause a lot of pain and take a long time to heal. Below, I’ve outlined the common issues and fixes for three back exercises I’ve found many people have problems with.
Proper Back Exercise Form
Here are three back exercises I see a lot of people perform incorrectly.
1. Bentover Row
Purpose & why do it
When done correctly, the ‘Bentover Row’ strengthens almost every muscle in your back, in addition to working your shoulders, arms and even your glutes! It’s an exercise that you can really increase the weight you lift, so it’s a great way to progress and build up your strength.
Common ‘Bentover Row’ mistakes and fixes:
- Not keeping your back straight. I see a lot of people hunch their backs during a row. To correct this, try bending your knees slightly and shift a little more of your weight into your heels. Think about leaning forward from your waist. You should be able to lift your elbows back behind your back; if you can’t the weight is probably too heavy for you.
- Straining your neck. Be sure to keep your neck in line with your spine. Keep your gaze down towards the floor and try relaxing your neck.
- Standing up too tall. It really is best if you can get your torso close to parallel with the ground in this back exercise. Try reducing the weight you’re lifting if you have trouble with this.
Here’s an advanced version of the Bentover Row:
2. Plank Twist
Purpose & why do it
Plank Twists activate so many of our core muscles at once, including the low back muscles, most of the abdominal muscles, shoulders, legs and glutes! If you’re short on time, this is a very effective exercise that strengthens a lot of your body groups at once.
Common ‘Plank Twist’ mistakes and fixes:
- Your butt comes up too high or sinks too low, causing you to arch your back. Keep your shoulders, hips and feet in a straight line at the start of this exercise. Focus on squeezing your abdominal muscles tightly throughout the entire move, to avoid straining your muscles.
- You don’t drop your hips deeply enough. Try touching the ground with your hip during each rep of this exercise, to get the maximum benefits from it.
- You don’t activate your legs & butt. Squeeze your glutes, and activate your quads during the plank twists by digging your feet firmly into the ground. Your feet shouldn’t move around too much during Plank Twists.
Here’s how to perform the Plank Twist correctly:
Purpose & why do it
The Superman exercise works your low back, an often neglected muscle area, in addition to your glutes, hamstrings and mid-back. It engages your trunk as a whole, builds stability and increases your flexibility at the same time. It requires no equipment and limited space so it’s easy to add into any type of workout you’re doing at home, the gym or while on vacation.
Common ‘Superman’ mistakes and fixes:
- Straining your neck. To prevent this, keep your chin tucked throughout, with your neck in line with your spine. Focus your gaze towards the floor.
- Holding your breath. Be sure to breathe normally and avoid holding your breath. I know it’s tough to breathe deeply when you’re lying on your stomach, but try breathing as naturally as possible through the whole movement.
- Pointing your toes outwards. When you lift your legs off the ground, it can be tempting to point your toes out, away from one another. To better engage your glutes muscles, focus on keeping your feet neutral with your toes pointing straight down to the ground.
Here’s how to perform an advanced version of the Superman correctly:
To Sum it up…Back Exercise Form
In order to avoid injury, it’s important to execute exercises with correct form. Back exercise form is particularly important; the low back has a lot of nerves running through it, so it is an area you really don’t want to play around with. The Bentover Row, Plank Twist and Superman, are three exercises that I commonly see people perform incorrectly. Have a read of the most common mistakes, along with their fixes, to see if you’re performing these three effective, yet tricky exercises correctly. Please let me know if you have any questions on proper back exercise form, I’d love to hear from you!