The Most Dangerous Exercise Mistakes You Might Be Making (Injury Prevention Part 3)

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In part 1 we covered the basics of injury prevention. Part 2 is a general discussion about corret (or acceptable) technique. Part 2 also briefly covers why you absolutely must film your training. If you haven’t read the previous parts you should do that before continuing here. In this post you will find out what mistakes are not exeptable. By following the advice below you can dramatically lower your chance of injury. So let’s get started.

Below I’ll list the most common mistakes people make when lifting that lead to injuries. This isn’t a complete list by any means but it should serve as a good starting point to analyse your own technique.

Most Common Bench Press Mistakes (That Lead to Injury) flat-barbell-bench-press

Not Touching Your Chest With the Bar

This goes against what you might have been told by others. Touching the chest hurts some people’s shoulders so they claim it’s dangerous and should be avoided. Quite the opposite is true actually. Going all the way down on the bench press is absolutely safe. If it causes pain in your shoulders then you are making one of the following mistakes.

Touching the Bar Too High on Your Chest

The bar should touch your chest on every rep. However it shouldn’t touch your chest above the nipple line. You want to bring the bar to a point below the nipple line / close to your sternum. This will automatically put your shoulders in a much safer position to press from. It’s also a more efficient technique once you get used to it. Making this one change in your technique will drastically lower the risk of rotator cuff injury down the road.

Letting Your Shoulders Roll Forward at the Top of the Movement

Your shoulders should be pulled back through the whole movement. That way your back will be tighter which will allow you to lift more weight safely. Letting the shoulders roll forward at the top is common when the weight gets too heavy for you. Don’t let this become a habit or you risk getting injured over time.

Most Common Deadlift Mistakes (That Lead to Injury)

Rounded Lower Back

If you aren’t extremely advanced you have to make sure that your back stays straight while deadlifting. A rounded back or (less common) a hyperextended back is a stupid risk to take. This is easy enough to spot if you film your sets so also quite easy to avoid.  If you get in the habit of keeping your back straight then your form will remain safe even if the weight is too heavy for you. Others can’t keep their back straight when they are focusing on lifting a heavy weight. (‘Heavy’ is always relative to your strength.) If you practice good form for a couple months you won’t have this problem. The bar won’t move off the floor unless you are actually strong enough to complete the lift. This is a great safety measure that your body takes by itself. Just make sure that you aren’t cheating to lift more weight and you’ll be fine.

Bending the Elbow at the Start of the Deadlift

If you bend you arms slightly before lifting the bar, you risk tearing a bicep tendon the moment the weight leaves the floor. There’s a simple solution to this technique error: Focus on flexing your triceps during deadlifts. It sounds strange but is very effective. If you focus on flexing your triceps your elbows will stay locked and in a safe position.

barbell

Most Common Squat Mistakes (That Lead to Injury)

You will have to record your squat from at least two different angles. The reason being that you need to check two different things in your form.

Knees Caving In

You have to keep your knees pointed out the same direction as your feet. (Your feet should be pointing about 30 degrees out.) Some people have the tendency to let their knees cave in at the bottom of the squat which could lead to injury. If you have this problem it can often be fixed simply by knowing you have the problem and focusing on keeping your knees out. Coaches use various cues to fix this issue but the most popular ones are:
Knees out!
Spread your knees!

Leaning Forward too Much

This isn’t a black and white issue. Leaning forward a bit is normal on a squat and completely unavoidable. However there comes a point when it’s definitely too much. Your squat starts to look like a ‘Good Morning’. This isn’t a very safe position for your lower back. The bar should be over the middle of your foot during the squat. If you lean forward the bar is way in front of your foot and no longer over your centre of balance. The back acts like a lever and has to work hard to balance out this inefficient position. It’s hard for me to say how much forward lean is acceptable. The amount of forward lean that comes naturally varies from person to person.

If you are getting pain in your lower back during squats that’s a good sign that you are leaning forward too much.
The problem often happens when people start their squats by moving the hips back. They move the hips far more than the knees during the squat. So to fix this issue I would suggest you focus on bending the knees and not pushing your hips back as far.

Most Common Overhead Press Mistakes (That Lead to Injury)

press leaning back

I don’t recommend leaning back like this for the average lifter.

Arching Your Back

Some experts (notably Mark Rippetoe in his great book ‘Starting Strength’) still recommend a version of the OHP that makes the lifter really lean back and arch his ack.

Personally I’m not a fan and believe that you should make sure that your back stays reasonably straight during the OHP. All you need to do is flex your glutes (that’s the muscle commonly referred to as your ass) and keep your core tight throughout the movement. In most cases that will fix the problem right away.

Most Common Bent Over Row Mistakes (That Lead to Injury)

Keeping your back straight is also important on a BOR but generally I think there isn’t much to look out for in terms of injury risk. The recording is still useful to make sure that you don’t cheat too much. I will also say that you don’t have to perform the Bent Over Row completely strictly. Just be honest with yourself when assessing your progress and don’t compare your strength using strict form and sets performed with sloppy form.

That’s all I’ m going to say about safe technique in this post.

If you apply the advice above your technique will be safe and the risk of injuring yourself in the weight room will be minimal.

That’s not to say that your technique is perfect.

Perfect technique takes years of practice.

I am nowhere near having perfect technique. The good news is that you don’t need perfect form.

Good enough will get the job done.

Stay safe. And come back for part 4!

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