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Getting fit in 2021? Common workout mistakes we always make and how to fix these

Local fitness experts reveal the nine exercises they see people performing incorrectly and share tips on how to correct them. These include fundamental movements such as push-ups and lunges.

Getting fit in 2021? Common workout mistakes we always make and how to fix these

(Model: Darwin Ramirez. Photo: Kelvin Chia)

Kudos to you if you’ve resumed your workout routine. But there’s just one thing that can upend those efforts: Bad form.

We know the exercises feel tougher, the movements less smooth, and the temptation to cheat gets sweeter as more lactic acid accumulates in your muscles (that’s the stuff that makes you feel sore and tired).

So instead of following through with the movement, you use momentum. Rather than keeping your core engaged, you relax everything. Maintain a straight line from the neck to the back? Ain’t nobody got energy for that by the last set.

And sometimes, the exercises aren’t even complex ones but fundamental movements that you may have been executing incorrectly all this time without realising. Or it could simply be the post-circuit breaker inertia that’s contributing to the poor form.

What are these common mistakes to watch out for? CNA Lifestyle found out from the fitness experts.


Many people have been exercising to workout videos on YouTube and why not? Your coveted time slot at the gym could be full, the videos are free and you still get to keep active.

Fitness professional Darwin Ramirez from Virgin Active agreed that these online workouts do have a role in inspiring people to stay active. However, he highlighted that not everything you see is accurate and works for you.

“People consume so much online content from the wrong sources,” he said. “They get cues that are generalised but don’t realise they don’t work for everyone.”


(Model: Darwin Ramirez; photo: Kelvin Chia)

Common mistakes: Sinking into a squat with rounded shoulders. Tiptoeing and raising the heels when coming back up.

Consequences: Lower back pain, joint pain in the knees/ankles, and spinal misalignment.

How to do it right:

1. Stand with feet wider than hip-width apart, toes pointed slightly out. Hold kettlebell or dumbbell at chest.

2. Send hips back and bend knees to lower yourself as far as possible. Keep lower back neutral.


(Model: Darwin Ramirez; photo: Kelvin Chia)

Common mistakes: Bringing the kettlebell up with your bicep instead of pulling from the elbow. The other mistake is rotating through your hips and upper torso.

Consequences: Low back injury.

How to do it right:

1. Adopt a staggered stance with only the ball of the back foot on the floor. Keep torso almost parallel to the floor. Rest non-working arm on a chair in front of you.

2. Pull kettlebell up by driving elbow to the ceiling. Control movement on the way down.


(Model: Darwin Ramirez; photo: Kelvin Chia)

Common mistakes: Rounding the shoulders and rigidly locking the elbows. Flaring out the elbows too far to the sides when coming down.

Consequences: Elbow pain or tendonitis, muscle strain and shoulder injury.

How to do it right:

1. Position two seats with a gap just wide enough to fit hips (if you’re using chairs with backrests, place them against a wall for stability). Place hands on corners of each chair closest to the body, with elbows straight.

2. Step out in front with your feet and rest only the heels on the floor.

3. Lower hips by bending elbows slowly to an angle that feels comfortable. Push up until elbows are almost locked out.


You’re probably ready to take on more challenging workouts after spending weeks on basic exercises during the circuit breaker period.

But sometimes, you may miss out the finer points for more complex movements, which can lead to injuries.

“You’re engaging more of your muscles and working them harder when you perform exercises that require you to understand how to stabilise yourself, find your balance, and combine your upper and lower body power,” said Thabata Da Costa Manso, a strength and conditioning expert with Evolve MMA.

That is a lot of information to process but that is exactly why “the effects are great”, she said.  


(Model: Hiro Yamada; photo: Kelvin Chia)

Common mistakes: Powering the momentum with the arms instead of the hips. Forgetting to rotate the wrist to prevent the kettlebell from hitting.

Other mistakes include turning the move into a bicep curl by only utilising arm muscles.

Consequences: Lower back and elbow aches.

How to do it right:

1. Keep back flat and engage core muscles at all times.

2. Swing kettlebell back between legs to gain momentum and drive the swing forward, bringing the kettlebell up to shoulder height.

3. As you straighten up with the upward momentum, keep elbow at 45 degrees and tucked in, while squeezing glutes.

4. Rotate wrist to stop the kettlebell on the shoulder.


(Model: Hiro Yamada; photo: Kelvin Chia)

Common mistakes: Not putting enough power on the front leg or losing stability. Over-extending the knee or arching the lower back can also cause imbalance.

Consequences: Knee joint and ligament strain.

How to do it right:

1. Stand with feet apart, then take a step back and ensure stability. Keep back straight and core engaged.

2. Bend knees to 90 degrees. Your weight should be evenly distributed on the lunge down, with more power on your front leg as you push yourself back up.


(Model: Hiro Yamada; photo: Kelvin Chia)

Common mistakes: Not engaging the arms, shoulders and core to hold your body in a plank position, resulting in the rounding or collapse of your lower back.

Or going too fast with the alternations. The key here is stabilisation while engaging the core and glutes.

Consequences: Soreness and joint tension in the neck, shoulders and lower back.

How to do it right:

1. Position hands parallel to one another, directly under shoulders. Align hips to shoulders. Keep neck and spine in a neutral position. Keep core and pelvic muscles engaged at all times to stabilise your body.

2. Once stable, extend one arm and the opposite leg, elongating your body as far as possible.


Like any skills such as riding a bicycle, your exercise skills can also get “rusty” if you stop practising, said Leon Tan, a fitness instructor with Fitness First.

“If you’ve been doing basic body weight exercises at home, you probably can retain the skills. A lot of gym-goers come back a little rusty after the circuit breaker,” he said.


(Model: Leon Tan; photo: Kelvin Chia)

Common mistakes: Rounding the back.

Also, don’t relax your back and flare out the elbows; instead, keep the elbows pointed at about 45 degrees.

Consequences: Shoulder joint stress.

How to do it right:

1. Get down on all fours, placing hands slightly wider than shoulders. Keep back tight by pulling back the shoulders.

2. Bend elbows to lower body until chest nearly touches the floor.

3. Pause, then push yourself back up.


(Model: Leon Tan; photo: Kelvin Chia)

Common mistakes: Squatting instead of bending at the waist.

Another mistake is using your arms and shoulders to swing the kettlebell; you can tell if you do so when the kettlebell hangs down at the top of the movement.

Consequences: Arm and shoulder strain.

How to do it right:

1. Bend at waist, and engage core to maintain tight and flat back. Keep arms loose.

2. Power the upward swing through hips to about shoulder height. Ensure arms are not doing the lifting. Squeeze glutes at the top of movement.

3. Let the momentum bring arms down to between the legs while still keeping core engaged.


(Model: Leon Tan; photo: Kelvin Chia)

Common mistakes: Pushing the knees forward instead of the hips. At the top of the movement, people also tend to lean back too much instead of standing tall.

Consequences: Lower back, knee and shoulder strain.

How to do it right:

1. Hold barbell over shoulders while keeping chest tall and back tight.

2. Push back hips and bend knees in a half squat.

3. Press barbell straight overhead with arms by your ears and head slightly forward.

Source: CNA/bk