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Author:-Rachel Cosgrove, C.S.C.S., Men's Health
What if you could instantly make any exercise 10 times more effective? Chances are, you can. That's because most men²including longtime gym rats²make tiny but key technique errors on even the most basic movements. And as it turns out, these seemingly minor mistakes may be preventing you from achieving the body you want. You see, an exercise may feel right, but smart lifting isn't just about moving a weight from point A to point B. For big-time gains, you need to master the small details. The good news: The best fitness coaches need only one sentence to tell you how to improve your results. Apply their words to your workouts, and you'll upgrade your routine instantly. Use these 18 tips from the top trainers in the industry to help you perfect your form, engage the right muscles, burn more calories, and lower your risk of injury. Think about it this way: It takes the same amount of time to do an exercise right as it does to do it wrong. So start squeezing more from every second of your workout. For more expert tips on how to perfect every exercise and build muscle faster, check out the best new exercises for every part of a man's body. Pushup WHAT YOU'RE DOING WRONG: You're letting your hips sag as you raise and lower your body. Perfect your form 1. "When you're in a pushup position, your posture should look the same as it would if you were standing up straight and tall," says Vern Gambetta, the owner of Gambetta Sports Training Systems, in Sarasota, Florida. "So your hips shouldn't sag or be hiked, and your upper back
shouldn't be rounded." 2. "Before you start, contract and stiffen your core the way you would if you had to zip up a really tight jacket," says Kaitlyn Weiss, an NASM-certified trainer based in Southern California. Hold it that way for the duration of your set. "This helps your body remain rigid²with perfect posture²as you perform the exercise." 3. "Don't just push your body up; push your hands through the floor," Gambetta says. You'll generate more power with every repetition.
Bench press WHAT YOU'RE DOING WRONG: You're thinking only about pushing the bar up from your chest. 1. "Every time you lower the weight, squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull the bar to your chest," says Craig Rasmussen, C.S.C.S., a fitness coach at Results Fitness in Santa Clarita, California. This will help you build up energy in your upper body so that you can press the bar up with more force. 2. "As you pull the weight down, lift your chest to meet the barbell," Rasmussen says. "This will aid your efforts to create a springlike effect when you start to push the bar back up." 3. "When you press the weight, try to bend the bar with your hands," says Pavel Tsatsouline, a fitness expert and the author of Enter the Kettlebell! The benefit: You'll activate more muscle fibers in your lats and move the bar in a stronger and safer path for your shoulders.
Compare how much you can bench to the Men's Health standards and see if you're weak, ordinary, or if you rule on the bench. Squat WHAT YOU'RE DOING WRONG: You're starting the movement by bending your knees. 1. "Sit back between your legs, not on top of your knees," says Dan John, a strength coach based in Draper, Utah. Start your squats by pushing your hips back. "Most men tend to bend their knees first, which puts more stress on their joints." 2. "When you squat, imagine you're standing on a paper towel," says Charlie Weingroff, director of sports performance and physical therapy for CentraState Sports Performance, in Monroe, New Jersey. "Then try to rip the towel apart by pressing your feet hard into the floor and outward." This activates your glutes, which helps you use heavier weights.
3. "Instead of raising your body, think about pushing the floor away from your body," says Alwyn Cosgrove, C.S.C.S., co-owner of Results Fitness. "This helps you better engage the muscles in your legs."
Straight-leg deadlift WHAT YOU'RE DOING WRONG: You're rounding your lower back as you bend over. 1. "To lower the weight, pretend you're holding a tray of drinks and need to close the door behind you with your butt," says Cosgrove. This cues you to bend over by pushing your hips back instead of rounding your lower back²a form blunder that puts you at risk for back problems. 2. "Try to 'shave your legs' with the bar," says Weiss. The reason: Every degree the bar is away from your body places more strain on your back, which increases your chance of injury and limits the emphasis on your hamstrings and glutes. 3. "As you lift the bar, squeeze your glutes like two fists," says Nick Grantham, a top strength and conditioning coach in the U.K. and the owner of Smart Fitness. You'll ensure that you're engaging your butt muscles. This helps you generate more power, lift more weight, and produce better results.
Rows and pullups WHAT YOU'RE DOING WRONG: You're ignoring the muscles that retract your shoulder blades. 1. "When doing bent-over and seated rows, and any pullup variation, create as much space between your ears and shoulders as you can," says Rasmussen. Pull your shoulders down and back and hold them that way as you do the exercise. This ensures you're working the intended middle- and upper-back muscles. 2. "As you row the weight, stick your chest out," says Mike Boyle, M.A., A.T.C., owner of Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning, in Winchester and North Andover, Massachusetts. This allows you to better retract your shoulder blades, which will lead to better results. 3. "Imagine there's an orange between your shoulder blades," says Grantham. "Then try to squeeze the juice out of it with your shoulder blades as you pull the weight or your body up."
Discover six muscles you ignore²but shouldn't.
Lunge WHAT YOU'RE DOING WRONG: You're leaning forward, causing your front heel to rise. 1. "When you lunge, keep your torso upright, and focus on moving it up and down, not backward and forward," says Rasmussen. This will keep your weight balanced evenly through your front foot, allowing you to press hard into the floor with your heel and target more muscle. 2. "Drop your back knee straight down to the floor," says Boyle. Consider this a second strategy to help you remember that you should drop your torso down, not push it forward, as you do the exercise. 3. "To work your core harder, narrow your starting stance," says Gray Cook, M.S.P.T., the author of Athletic Body in Balance. The smaller the gap between your feet, the more your core has to work to stabilize your body. Your goal: Lunge so that it's almost like you're walking on a tightrope as you perform the exercise.