BY: Shannon Flanagan

December 28, 2018

5 Basic Exercise Moves You’re Probably Doing Wrong

Shannon Flanagan is a certified personal trainer. Follow her on Instagram (@shanagan9) for a sneak peek at her workouts and inspirational quotes.

I have been a fitness professional for over 12 years. In those years, I have seen some interesting versions of basic exercise moves. The typical exercises I continue to correct my clients on are planks, split squats or lunges, lat pulldowns, swings, and push-ups.

beginner-friendly workout exercise moves


The plank is one of the best exercises for the core, but only if it’s done correctly.  

Common Mistakes

  1. Arching the lumbar spine. When your core is weak, the lower back starts to take over.  
  2. Hips dip down. When the arms and core start to fatigue, your hips most likely will start to dip.  
  3. Looking in the mirror or straight ahead. As soon as you compromise the positioning of the spine, the form starts to go.  

How to Clean It Up

When getting into the position, make sure your elbows are under your shoulders, feet are together, squeeze your inner thighs, tuck your hips towards your feet, and look down at the floor. Make sure to engage every muscle and breathe deeply to ensure you get the full benefits of the exercise. 

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lunge squat exercise moves

Split Squat

The lunge squat is one of the best lower body exercises, let’s make sure you are doing them correctly.  

Common Mistakes

  1. Legs are too far apart. When the knees aren’t at a 90-degree angle, the back leg takes on most of the work.  
  2. Knee goes over the toes. If you are experiencing pain when lunging, this is probably the reason why.
  3. Weight is not distributed on the front leg. Putting the majority of the weight on the back leg will defeat the purpose of this movement.

How to Clean It Up

Make sure your knees are behind your toes and over the ankle.  Put a small pad down right under the knees, and make sure both knees are at a 90-degree angle. Make sure to lean slightly forward to ensure you engage the glutes on the front leg. Make sure 75-80% of the weight is distributed in the front leg. Keep a nice neutral spine and repeat. Add weights to make this exercise harder. 

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back exercises

Lat Pulldown

The lat pulldown is a wonderful exercise that works several muscles at once, such as the lats, teres minor and major, posterior deltoids, rhomboids and even your biceps. However, if you do this incorrectly, you could experience a serious injury. 

Common Mistakes

  1. Pulling the bar behind their head. This is an unnatural movement for the shoulder. I have seen someone dislocate their shoulder doing this exact movement.
  2. Pulling the bar down towards their waist. This movement causes you to lose the activation in the lat and put all the stress on the arms and shoulders.
  3. Grip is too wide. If you grip the bar too wide, it will cause you to reduce range of motion in this movement.  

How to Clean It Up  

Make sure your grip is 3-5 inches wider than your shoulders. Keep the bar in front of you and pull the bar down to the top of your chest. If you can’t get the bar to your chest, think about reducing the weight and make sure to squeeze your shoulder blade at the end of the movement.  

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how to recover from overtraining


The swing is a total-body exercise designed to improve posture and build strength. The swing is a hinge movement primarily working the posterior chain.  

Common Mistakes

  1. Hyperextension of the spine (pushing the hips too far forward).
  2. Excessive lumbar flexion (rounding shoulders at the bottom of the swing).
  3. Looking forward, causing hyperextension of the neck.  
  4. Squatting the hinge.
  5. Using the arms too much.

How to Clean It Up

This move is complex, and it takes hands-on instruction to get the movement right. Trying it on your own without knowledge on how to hinge could result in an injury. My advice is to find a professional that has been trained specifically for kettlebells. Unfortunately, I see a lot of fitness professionals teaching their clients how to swing improperly. I am certified through RKC. You can go on and look for a certified instructor in your area.

RELATED: 5 Best Ab Exercises That Aren’t Crunches

exercise moves pushup plank


A push-up can be one of the hardest exercises, even for the best athletes, but — you guessed it — only when it is done correctly. If done incorrectly, it can be completely useless. 

Common Mistakes

  1. Hips dip down (just like the plank, because the starting point of the push up is a plank).
  2. Shoulders shrug and elbows go out too wide.  
  3. Not moving through the full motion.

How to Clean It Up 

First, build your solid plank to be able to keep your hips from dipping down. If you need a modification, start on the wall, work your way to a bench, and eventually to the floor. When figuring out where your hands should be, line up the webbing of your thumb and index finger with your shoulders. As you lower down, keep your elbows close to your body (think of a chaturanga in yoga). Once your chest hits the floor or the bench you are working, push yourself up. 

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