Classic gym exercises done right: upgrade your workouts with fitness star Lisa Fiit

Don't make a fool of yourself on the first day in the gym, follow the workout advice of fitness model and online trainer Lisa Fiitt

most common gym exercises correctly
(Image credit: Lisa Fiitt)

It's January and it means there is one thing on everyone's mind: how to get fit for 2021? Especially after the slump in physical activity last year, it's completely understandable.  Since everyone was forced to stay indoors for most parts of 2020, 2021 feels like the right to get healthy for good. Don't want to look like an absolute beginner on your first day in the gym (whenever they'll reopen)? Workout at home and learn how to perform these classic gym exercises correctly.

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Before we go any further, we would like to stress that it's absolutely fine to not know exactly how to perform exercises correctly on your first day in the gym. No one expects you to know what all the machines are for and how to use them correctly. It's perfectly fine to ask for help in any gym and people who have been frequenting the gym for longer will be more than happy to give you advice.

5 common exercises people do wrong and how to do them correctly

(Image credit: Lisa Fiitt)

That said, it' a good idea to do a bit of research before start lifting heavy weights. Although a lot can only be learned about workouts by actually doing them, good form and posture can all be double checked before you start curling the best barbells or best dumbbells.

If there is one person who knows how to perform common exercises correctly that's Lisa Fiitt, fitness models and online trainer, whose fitness app Strong and Sxy has workout and meal plans to get you in shape for the new year: you'd better check it out in the Google Play and/or Apple App Store.

5 common exercises people do wrong and how to do them correctly

Deadlift

Don’t

Even though it might feel natural to, avoid rounding forward or hyperextending (arching the back) as this can place undue stress and excess pressure on the back, and even cause injury. Tempting though it may be to watch your form, make sure not to look at yourself in the mirror and keep a neutral head position. The deadlift is a hip hinge movement so avoid using a squat position in both the descend and ascend.

Do’s

First, choose between an overhand grip or a mixed grip. Mixed grip (one hand over and the other one under) is the most commonly used technique, make sure rotate the grips between the two hands between workouts.

Use a shoulder-width grip and grasp the bar just outside the knees. Push your hips back (hip hinge movement) and bend your knees until your shins touch the bar, keeping them parallel. Lift your chest and keep the spine neutral. Make sure you keep your head in a neutral position, meaning your head is not in an angle compared to your back.

Keep your abs braced throughout the entire movement to help maintain a strong neutral spine. Voila! You have mastered the deadlift.

Cable row

Don’t

Round the top of the back and pull with only the biceps. This exercise is intended to work the the back muscles, particularly the lats, not just your arms. Although the movement also works the forearm muscles, your biceps and triceps should only act as dynamic stabilisers.

Do’s

Using the V bar, pull the attachment towards the lower rib cage, keeping the chest lifted being careful not to lean back too much or swing the weight. 

Make sure to keep the reps nice and controlled and keep the tension on the back at all times.

Lat pull-down

Don’t

Lean back too far and use the momentum to pull down the bar – otherwise, you might as well be doing a cable row! Although both exercises work the lats, the range of movement on a pull-down is far greater. You’ll have to lean back a little way to allow the bar to move around your face, but stay as straight as you can. If you’re finding you’re leaning back too far, you may want to decrease the weight. 

Do

Keep your torso upright, pull the bar down to the top of the chest whilst keeping good posture and the reps nice and controlled - don’t let the bar lead you, lead the bar!

Romanian deadlift (RDL)

Don’t

Don't bend at the lower back or look in the mirror when descending: keep the spine neutral all the way through the movement. This exercise should work your hamstrings mainly, followed by glutes and forearm flexors. If you bend your back, you’re not engaging the target muscles. Don’t let the bar travel away from your thighs/shins and make sure not to over extend at the top of the rep.

Do’s

Keep the bar pulled in towards the shins/thighs and keep your core engaged as you descend, and avoid letting the knees travel forwards. Push the hips back (known as a hip hinge movement) and keep a neutral spine. Squeeze the glutes at the top of each rep and feel the burn!

Squat

Don’t

Don't let the knees rotate internally or externally and only go as low as your body allows you to. This will depend on your body’s anatomy but crucial to avoid 'butt wink' (where the lower back rounds at the bottom of the squat). If you find your knees rotating, you might need to start with lighter weights as it means your glutes aren’t strong enough.

Do’s

Keep your feet slightly wider than hip width apart, with your toes slightly pointed outwards. Keep your chest lifted and a nice, neutral spine. Keep your core braced and think about pushing the hips back and sitting in an imaginary chair. Exhale as you drive through your heels and push back up!

Get Fit for 2021!

This is part of T3's Fit for 2021 programme, which will be running throughout January. We aim to bring you tips on diet, lifestyle and exercise that will help you shape up for what is certain to be a difficult year. One thing we can guarantee: it WILL be better than last year. And hopefully we'll help you get the most out of it.