The 4 most common exercises performed incorrectly

In a previous article I mentioned the 5 most common mistakes people are making in the gym. Everything was highlighted from your warm up routine,your mobility structure right down to your technique on certain exercises.Today I am going to stay with 1 of the points and develop it a little further.The aim of this article is to highlight the most common exercises I see performed incorrectly on the gym floor over the last 10 years and the goal here is to help you achieve better technique and or bring in some better alternatives for you.Last week I talked about program design and perhaps a couple of the movements I will highlight here today are in your current program.The movements mentioned are basic functional movements and they can provide you with a big bang for your buck when done right.A lot of the time I see these movements executed incorrectly and is down to a number of reasons.

1.You have had little to no real guidance and you just weren’t taught right.

2.Your mobility is restricting you perform the movement right.

3.The movement,load,volume or even intensity you are currently working under isn’t quite right for you just yet.

Back Squat

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This is the king of all exercises and is a movement everybody has the ability to perform correctly.If I only a handful of exercises for most people to do, this movement would be included. There isn’t a better exercise for the development of full-body strength, improving core strength and lower-body muscle development.The problem here is seeing the movement done wrong and it happens quite a lot.There are a couple of reasons for this from your mobility restricting you or maybe you are far better off working off some goblet or even air squats first of all mastering the technique a little better before you start to increase intensity with a loaded barbell on your back.The video below will show both the correct movement and the most incorrect common signs of a poor back squat.

Better alternative

My advice here is simple.Go source a trainer that has the ability to fix your technique or guide you towards a better alternative.It might mean spending some time on working on your basic mobility.Having tight hip flexors,stiff hamstrings or even tight ankles could be the reason why your technique isn’t looking as good and is restricting your movement.Or another tip would be to revert back to goblet or air squats.The picture below covers a few basic simple cues you need to look out for when sitting in the bottom of a squat.


Straight bar deadlift

Another big compound movement that I like to see in most peoples gym program.A super posterior chain exercise that can increase overall body strength and help develop glutes and hamstrings. Unfortunately this movement is the most common exercise on the gym floor I would see being done poorly and can lead to many issues down the line particularly low back injury.The demo below shows both 2 types of bars.A straight bar and a trap bar.There are many variations of the exercise, including the kettlebell deadlift, straight bar and the hex bar deadlift.I use the hex bar myself and with 80-90% of my clients, while the other 10-20% use a straight bar as they have great range of motion in their hamstrings which allows them to pull from the floor in that position.A movement like this that really is something quite basic and functional needs a certain amount of coaching.I sometimes hear of people complaining of lower back pain after deadlifting. This could be down to something as simple as not bracing yourself before your set up, poor technique not knowing how to hinge correctly, going too heavy, or perhaps you should be using a hex bar as you’re not mobile enough to find the correct position at the bottom of a straight bar.

Better alternative

My advice here is simple.Go source a trainer that has the ability to fix your technique or guide towards a better alternative.There are many alternatives like I mentioned above.The kettlebell deadlift is a great example or even veering towards the trap bar might be a good option.If your gym doesn’t have a trap bar then perhaps look at performing the straight bar deadlift off an elevation like a set of blocks or a rack if your mobility doesn’t quite allow you to pull from the floor just yet.

Kettlebell swing

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The Kettlebell swing is an excellent exercise.The bell itself is something I recommend for everybody to have lieing about the house.Its perfect for a home workout,very versatile and quite easy to bring on the road and can perform so many movements with 1 bell.Both the American and Russian swing are great exercises.The american swing is the image above and the Russian is pretty much the same except you don’t finish as high with the bell.The principles stay pretty much the same but this is where a lot of people go wrong with the movement.The kettlebell swing can be quite complex for a newbie and needs some initial coaching.Most people don’t get this coaching and the swing really ends up looking quite ugly.Its another exercise that can encourage injury if you don’t get the basics mastered.

Better alternative

Go source someone who has the ability to coach you initially.You really will only need a few basic tweaks and a good coach will having you swinging well quite soon.Starting off I wouldn’t recommend attending a bootcamp class that does lots of swings or KB class until you have been coached a few times on how to perform the movement.The video below includes a couple of tips along with the normal mistakes I see with most beginners who haven’t been taught right at the start.Hope it helps.


Push up

A basic upper body exercise that everybody has the ability to work towards and perform correctly.Basic teaching points are important here.I see quite a number of push ups on the gym floor.From people on their knees,midline collapsing,incorrect hand position,elbows flaring out,not enough range to not finding the right scale for the person.The list is endless but the fixes are simple.

Better alternative

The video below included many of the errors I mention above but it also includes plenty of fixes on how you can go about working towards your first full push up or even will help you a guideline on how to clean your set up a little bit better.Hope it helps.


I hope you’ve found this information useful and if you need any more advice you can pop me a direct message from the links below.

You can also get more advice on my social media pages, which are also linked below.

David Last is a personal trainer based in Dublin. For more information you can follow him on FacebookInstagram and Twitter. Or you can send him a direct message here.

You can also see some of his previous articles here.


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