The Right Way to Exercise

After a tough day at work, you log an even tougher workout at the gym. But are you making things harder than they need to be? Learning new exercises is key to working new muscle groups, but Patricia Montagano, the director of recreation and intramural sports at Hofstra University, stressed the importance of doing these new exercises correctly. Otherwise, you’re cheating yourself out of a workout and putting yourself at risk for injury. Self-correct common mistakes on five favorite workouts.

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Squatting should help build a bigger booty, not kill the knees.

“People have a tendency to have their knees too far forward (past their big toes) when squatting [don’t go] low enough. You need to focus on all of your body weight on the back of your heels. Heels [should] remain on the floor throughout the movement,” said Montagano.

Putting weight back not only saves your knees, but it makes hamstring and glute muscles work more, giving them a better workout.


Push-ups give gym rats major definition in the arms but some #fitfam members avoid them because they’re uncomfortable. Turns out, it’s probably because they’re doing it wrong.

“Your elbows should be pointed back pushing your body up and down and not extended out, like chicken wings. Keeping your elbows tucked back is proper form.”

Improper push-up form can put undue stress on elbows, shoulder joints and even lower back.

Bicep Curls

Another major offender, people often fling arms up to gain momentum during a bicep curl, making the next rep easier — but not nearly as effective. Moving elbows with each curl takes away from a full bicep workout and throws the whole upper body into a motion that can potentially injury lower back muscles.

To attain perfect form, tuck elbows into sides. “[It’s] like a rod [is] connecting them through your body to stabilize movement, which isolates the bicep muscle.”

Can it be tank top season again, already?


It’s easy to fall into improper planking form because the abdominal muscle group is one of the hardest to work.

“[Having] hips too high or too low and arching your back are common mistakes. Your back needs to be straight from head to toe.”

To get through the pain, flex your mental muscles by envisioning that six-pack.


“During sit-ups, or really any exercise, many people go fast and use momentum.  The key is to go slow and stay in control and not allow gravity to perform the action.”

Remember, it’s quality not quantity. Doing 10 slow bicycle crunches is actually more intense than 30 fast crunches because the action always comes from the muscles.

Other Pro Tips

Breathe: Montagano advised people to check their breathing during any exercise. She said, “many people hold their breath doing repetitions. This obviously is never a good idea as you’re limiting oxygen to the brain.” That extra 10-pound weight might not be worth it if you’re about to pass out lifting it.

HIIT It: For those of you who focus on cardio rather than muscle building, Montagano said, “Interval training is more effective than steady-state cardio where you’re going at the same pace for the entire duration of exercise. You will challenge yourself greater in a shorter period of time then you would if you stayed at the steady state for a longer amount of time. HIIT training is more effective then steady-state training (SST).”

Check Yourself Out: Ultimately, if an exercise ever hurts, stop and think of how your body is aligned. Don’t be afraid to work out in front of a mirror to check form.