It’s hard to scroll through Instagram without stumbling across toned and tanned fitness influencers posting lengthy videos of their gym workouts.
Unfortunately, many of them seem more concerned with posing for the camera rather than demonstrating proper form. So, unless you want to risk injury, it’s probably not a good idea to try and copy the techniques you see in such videos.
We spoke to David Jordan, founder and PT at The Fitting Rooms gym in London to find out the most common weightlifting mistakes being made on Instagram and how to do the moves correctly.
Deadlifts are a move you’ll regularly see on Instagram – for many, it’s a pretty good way to show off how “strong” you are, because it uses one of the big muscle groups – the legs- and therefore you can lift a lot.
Unfortunately, a lot of people could potentially hurt themselves by deadlifting with a flexed spine. “With the deadlift it’s easy to completely lose your position for the sake of just moving the bar from A to B,” Jordan, a competitive bodybuilder, explains. “In essence we want to lift the bar with our legs, primarily our hamstrings and glutes (in some cases our quads too).” Instead, some #fitspiration vloggers have got their backs involved, which is not the muscle group you want to use.
If you really struggle to maintain a neutral spine when deadlifting, Jordan advises you set up following these instructions:
1. Screw your feet into the floor
2. Point your hips back at the wall behind you
3. Tense your entire body as hard as you can
4. Squeeze your back as if you were crushing an object with your armpits
5. Pull your shoulders down and pull the bar close to you
6. Push your feet through the floor to lift the bar
7. Push your hips into the bar and squeeze your glutes to lock it out
2. Dumbbell shoulder presses
“A gym favourite for growing big shoulders is always going to be heavy pressing with a sturdy bench for support,” Jordan says. “However, most gym goers don’t actually have the mobility to lift their arms straight above their head, so compensate by arching their back to change their torso angle and use their chest.”
There’s a really simple fix for this. Even though you might not think it looks as impressive, if you put the bench at a lower incline you’re less likely to arch your back and potentially damage it. Jordan advises: “Somewhere between 75 and 60 degrees will give you greater range of motion and a more comfortable press. Keep your abs tight and braced and push your back into the bench as hard as you can for support.”
3. Side single leg press
“This is a common exercise amongst a lot of the ‘fitchick’ community for the purpose of growing your glutes,” says Jordan – adding that unfortunately, it’s actually less effective than doing a normal leg press. Not only this, but it “puts the knee and hip joint under a lot of unnecessary stress”.
Jordan instead advises you do a normal single leg variation with a slightly higher foot placement. He adds: “Use a slow negative – lowering the weight slowly instead of pressing it (pushing upwards) – and pause as low as you can go while maintaining contact with your heel, and then drive your heel through the plate as hard as you can.”
4. Bicep curls
Instagram would have us believe biceps are one of the most important areas to train, considering how many posts we see of people pumping out curls. However, biceps aren’t a big muscle group, which means they actually can’t take as much weight as many gym goers think.
For Jordan, this means “it’s very easy to try and load up a heavy barbell and get your lower back swinging into the movement.” This takes away from the point of a curl – instead of using your biceps, you end up using your back to manage the big weight.
Jordan says: “Instead, try your curl variations seated with dumbbells or even with some sort of artificial support for the upper arm. The main use of the bicep is to bend your arm – make sure it does just that!”
5. Bench presses
“When it comes to benching, we need to keep an eye on the excessive movement of our hips if we want a strong bench or large chest muscles,” Jordan says.
Similar to the mistake often made with bicep curls, people tend to use momentum to move the weight of the bench press instead of actually using their muscles. To correct this, Jordan advises you follow these three steps:
1. Keep your feet pulled close to the bench and as close to your hips as you can
2. Push the knees out and point the toes out
3. Squeeze your glutes and push your feet into the floor to prevent your hips from moving excessively