pushups_645 copy

You constantly hear “watch your form, ladies” in your group fitness class or your favorite DVD workout. Whether it’s your gym’s instructor or Jillian Michael’s, you need to practice what they preach! With all of the HIIT workouts and body weight resistance training, it’s never been more important to know the basics of good form. Your pain during those squat jumps may not just be because you are out of shape…improper technique can seriously strain your joints! Here are 5 exercises to correct RIGHT NOW:

1. Squats: 180 squat jumps and power squats are huge for interval training exercises and for a good reason. They work a major muscle group which in turn burns major calories. However, that means there’s more at risk.

Proper Form: When you squat, the weight of your body should be in the heels. You should be able to tap your toes without losing balance. Most importantly, your knees should NEVER go in front of your toes. It should be a straight 90 degree angle. This is especially true in jumping lunges and squats. Your back should comfortably stay parallel; if you begin to arch your back, it’s a sign there’s misalignment.

2. Push ups: There are so many variants of the push up. Some, such as Chinese push ups, have you in “bad” form already–your butt is in the air and your head is the thing you want to skim the floor with. However, that’s for advanced exercisers who know the basics of a push up.

Proper Form: For a simple push up, your arms should be directly under your shoulders and your hands directly under your arms. Many people over extend their arms, so when they lower their head down, it is actually behind their hands. Your body should be naturally aligned. You butt should stay down, but not sagging. Suck your tummy in and contract the core to keep the butt in line with your back.

3. Mountain Climbers: This seems like a simple exercise. But, just because it’s called a mountain climber doesn’t mean you should look like one–you should not be in an upside down “v” shape with your butt at the “peak.”

Proper Form: Just like a plank and a push up, your body should remain in a straight line. Even when you are kicking your knees up toward your chin and chest, your butt should be down. Again, as in the push up, your arms should be in line with your shoulders and your hands in line with your arms.

4. Leg Press with Too Much Weight: Just because you have “muscular legs” doesn’t mean you need to max out on the leg press.

Proper Form: If your knees are rammed into your chest after pushing, you need to lower the weights. Also, do not fully extend your legs. Your knees should remain soft and comfortably bent. If you feel your knee locking, again, reduce the weight and don’t push out to full extension.

5. Standing Arm Exercises (bicep curls, chest press): There’s one basic technique that should be used in any arm exercise using free weights. Your back should always remain straight.

Proper Form: Even if you are bent over at a 45 degree angle for rows, your back and neck should be aligned. The moment you come on to your toes or feel like you are leaning back, lower the weights and pick a lighter set.