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Getting fit for 2016 – then make sure you do it right!
29 Jan 2016
by Rhea Alton

This January exercise has been featuring high on the agenda for thousands of people across Shropshire who have made new year’s resolutions to get fit.
It’s thought that the average British adult will consume around 7,000 calories alone on Christmas Day – this is more than double the male recommended daily intake and triple for females.
It’s really no surprise then that ditching the alcohol and putting the lid back on the chocolates is a high priority for many in January and gyms across the county have been experiencing an influx of new members.
Laura Cunningham, owner of Shifnal Chiropractic Clinic in Dyas Close, Shifnal, is a regular gym goer and year on year she is always surprised at the number of newcomers.
She said: “You’ll quite often find me chugging away at the gym five days a week and every year come January I’m amazed at the number of newcomers – people who have made that new year commitment to get fit and healthy.
“Whilst highly commendable I do always have some concerns about the intensity and pace at which people start their new regime.
“Some tend to go all out but then struggle to maintain the routine and often their visits to the gym unfortunately don’t last much beyond February.
“Then there are those people who are full of enthusiasm. These are the ones I worry most about. They are so keen to get fit that they attempt all the right exercises but often do them all the wrong way.”
Having owned Shifnal Chiropractic Clinic for the last three years Miss Cunningham is no stranger to treating patients who have suffered injuries during exercise.
In fact, rehabilitating patients who had suffered sporting injuries proved to be one of the fastest growing areas of the business in 2015.
So, in a bid to avoid a rush at her door during the early months of 2016, the 27-year-old chiropractor has come up with some helpful advice on how to avoid injury when conducting basic gym exercises.

Top 10 exercise errors and how to get them right:


  1. Biceps curl – the usual sin with weights is trying to lift too much too quickly, and the curl is no exception.  Keeping your elbows tucked against your waist, you should aim to move only your forearm, through your elbow joint.  Start with your arm slightly bent, a nice straight posture and unlocked knees.  Slowly raise the weight, so your elbow is bent to at least 90o but the rest of you doesn’t move.

  2. Triceps Extensions – the counter-exercise to the biceps curl, this works the muscle at the back of the arms, popular for cutting back on the “bingo-wing” look.  There are loads of ways you can work this muscle, but there is one fault that is fairly common to all of them. Not using your triceps to do the movement.  I have watched people use their upper back, abdominals and various other muscles instead, all through poor technique.  As a general rule, your upper arm should be almost motionless.  All of the action occurs as you straighten your arm at the elbow – any other movement in your whole body is just cheating!
  3. Bench/chest press – another candidate for the too-much-weight competition.  Everyone seems to want to impress their mates with how much they can “bench”.  Usually, the technique starts to slide most when people are using dumbbells rather than a barbell – although good for making sure you are not using one side more than the other through the movement, there is a tendency to lose form as the weights are being lowered.  The biggest one I see, though, is recruitment.  This happens when the target muscle is simply unable to lift the weight, so other areas of the body start to help – in this case, low back, buttock and legs.  If your back is bent like a banana off the bench, you are going to hurt yourself.

  4. Side arm raises – this exercise is supposed to target the deltoid muscle, particularly the middle deltoid.  The idea is to stand upright with your arm by your side and a weight in your hand.  You then raise your arm out to the side, to about shoulder height, maintaining just a slight bend at the elbow.  It can be done one side at a time, or both arms together. BUT there is a nice big muscle right there in your shoulders that just loves to take over this movement – the trapezius.  That muscle that goes rigid across the top of your shoulders whenever you tense. The last thing this muscle generally needs is a workout, and especially when you’re aiming for your deltoid.  To avoid recruiting your traps, try to keep your shoulders pulled down and your neck relaxed as you slowly raise the weight.  It’s also easier to avoid recruiting when you do the exercise one side at a time.  Again, if you find you simply can’t lift the weight without using your trapezius muscle, drop the weight right back down to something that feels very light and increase the weight more gradually.

  5. Bent over row – a simple one to point out where the error comes.  The “bent” part of the title comes from your hips, not your upper back. Always keep your spine in neutral, so that it’s nice and straight with just the natural gentle curves it always has.  If you are curling over with your upper body, you’re doing it wrong.

  6. Stomach crunches/sit-ups – first off, don’t do full sit-ups.  Total waste of time, very bad for your back, and more likely to work the muscles in the front of your hips then your abs. Half sit-ups are much better.  Lightly rest your hands by your ears while lying on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor.  Squeeze your stomach muscles to lift your upper body off the floor slightly, breathing out as you do so, and then slowly lower yourself back down.  You should feel no strain in your neck – all the work comes from your stomach, so try not to haul yourself up with your neck or shoulders.

  7. Squats – it seems that most technique-failures hit the lower back, and this is no exception.  In an effort to lift weight, and sink deeper into the squat, the tendency is to round through your lower back, flattening it out rather than maintain that nice gentle curve.  Sometimes, this is accompanied by the upper body collapsing forward slightly.  To start squats, leave the weight off altogether – get the movement sorted, then worry about adding weights.  Place your hand in the small of your back, and do your squat – there should be no movement under your hand.  None.  Sometimes it also helps to have a friend film you from the side as you do the squat, so you can check your technique.  You also need to keep an eye on your knees – make sure they don’t travel further forward than your toe, or start to fall in towards each other.

  8. The Plank – I love this exercise.  It’s great for really making you feel that you are working hard, and have achieved something by the end of it.  Basically, you are face down, propped up on your forearms and toes with your body forming a rigidly straight line, with only the correct spinal curves allowed.  There are two common “fails” here – one, when people really are struggling to do this exercise at all, they tend to lift their hips towards the ceiling and form an inverted V; the other fault is as someone gets tired towards the end of their hold they get tired and their hips start to sink towards the floor, forming a U.  The first is just ineffective, and won’t help you improve your strength at all, but the second puts a lot of strain on your low back.  Again, having a friend watch you from the side or occasionally glancing at yourself in a mirror can help make sure you don’t fall into these traps.  For the majority of the exercise, though, you must have you head facing forward, looking down at the floor with your neck in neutral alignment with your spine.

  9. Leg Press – this is a machine-based exercise, aimed at working your legs and gluteal muscles in a similar way to the squats.  It’s all about control.  You should have absolute control of the weight at all times – again, wanting to impress their mates, people tend to overload on weight and let the plates bounce off the stops at the end of the movement, using the rebound as a head-start on the next press.  Not only is this minimising the effectiveness of the exercise, but it is also risking some pretty painful injuries.  Also, the effort of pushing against the plate sometimes makes people push against the support with their lower back – not a good idea.  Keep that neutral spine at all times, and remember slow and steady, and you should avoid most pitfalls.

  10. Lunges – have pity on my knees, and do your lunges correctly.  I swear, watching other people doing lunges wrong makes my knees hurt in sympathy!  There are a lot of things to watch for, but the basic rules are 900 and in a straight line. Your leading leg, in front, should form a 90o angle at both the hip and knee, with your body being kept upright. The trailing leg, behind, will therefore form a straight line through your hip, and a 90o angle at your knee.  If you take a sneaky glance down, you should note that your front knee is not going any further forward than the tip of your toe, and is in line with your second toe. There is a strong tendency for the knee to collapse inwards, and the twisting force this puts on the joint is going to cause pain in fairly short order.

And, one final tip from Miss Cunningham: “No matter what exercise you’re attempting, remember: neutral spine, lighter is better and control at all times”.
For further information on the services offered by Shifnal Chiropractic Clinic or advice on sporting injuries contact Laura Cunningham on 01952 460947 or email info@lkchiroprctic.co.uk.