7 Exercises You’re Probably Doing Wrong

by | Read time: 4 minutes

Push-ups, lunges and planks are a few of the more basic exercises most of us incorporate into our daily workout routines. Unfortunately, it’s common for many folks to perform these moves incorrectly. Poor form risks injury, which defeats the purpose of getting stronger. Is this you?

Fix your form with the following do’s and don’ts guide to proper alignment and muscle engagement in these seven widely-used exercises.

Woman Performing Deep Squat with Safe Form | Vitacost.com/Blog

1. Squats

Squatting is one of the best and most common exercises for building muscles and strength in the glutes and legs. Too often, proper form is neglected, which (as mentioned) is a risk for injury. When I’m training clients, we always start with low weight (or no weight) in order to practice correct form.


  • Use too much weight
  • Round back by leaning too far forward
  • Cave knees in toward each other
  • Place feet too close together
  • Look up too high


  • Use enough weight to feel resistance without struggling
  • Keep back straight with slight arch, elbows back and core engaged
  • Place feet hip-width apart
  • Look directly forward
  • Imagine sitting down in a chair and then push through the heels when standing up
  • Keep heels grounded

Woman Performing Lunch with Proper Form | Vitacost.com/Blog

2. Lunges

Another top exercise for glutes and hamstrings are lunges.  Performing a lunge incorrectly may cause damage to ligaments which surround the knee joint.  Practice doing lunges the correct way before thinking about adding dumbbells or a barbell.


  • Lunge or slouch too far forward
  • Lean with upper body either too far back or too forward
  • Extend knee out over toes
  • Turn front foot inward


  • Keep body in upright position the entire exercise
  • Align knee over ankle
  • Bend front knee to form straight line from shoulders to knees to hips
  • Face forward, engage core and keep shoulders and hips squared
  • Keep heel of rear leg lifted off floor
  • Bend back knee to form straight line from shoulder to hip to knee

Woman Performing Plank Exercise with Proper Form | Vitacost.com/Blog

3. Planks

Strength training, yoga, pilates, CrossFit—so many fitness-related programs incorporate planks into their routines. Done right, planks are a great way to build core strength. Performing this seemingly simple move incorrectly can cause pain in the lower back, neck and shoulders.


  • Arch back causing torso to sag
  • Scrunch shoulders toward ears
  • Arch neck back, look up or look straight ahead
  • Misalign neck and spine
  • Lift glutes up too high


  • Keep neck and spine aligned in neutral position
  • Keep shoulders down and back, directly over elbows
  • Engage core
  • Align hips and buttocks with spine
  • Gaze down toward the floor

Woman Performing Push-Up with Proper Form | Vitacost.com/Blog

4. Push-ups

This basic old-school calisthenics exercise is a common go-to and can be done almost anywhere during any type of workout. It can certainly be tough—that’s why people often cheat when performing them. When done properly, not only will push-ups build upper body strength, they’ll also strengthen your core muscles.


  • Cheat by only going half way down
  • Place hands too far apart and flare out elbows
  • Drop chin toward chest or touch ground with nose first
  • Forget to breathe


  • Complete a full rep
  • Keep body fully aligned, from head to toe, so entire body moves up and down together
  • Tighten glutes and core
  • Draw elbows in close to the body
  • Touch ground with chest first
  • Inhale going down, exhale coming up

Woman Performing Pull-Ups at Park with Proper Form | Vitacost.com/Blog

 5. Pull-ups

Pull-ups are probably one of the toughest basic exercises to conquer. But it’s a great exercise for building strength in arms, shoulders and back, while also engaging abdominal muscles. Poor form can injure your rotator cuff, elbow and neck. If your gym has a weight assisted pull-up machine, try starting on that to build strength and good form. 


  • Cheat by only doing half a pull up
  • Use a kipping motion to swing up (unless you’re a hardcore CrossFitter doing this for speed)
  • Keep elbows too close together


  • Complete the full range of the pull-up (even if it’s tough and you can only do one)
  • Keep shoulders down and back, palms facing away from you
  • Build strength with a slow and controlled pull up

Woman Performing Burpee Exercise with Proper Form | Vitacost.com/Blog

6. Burpees

Burpees are an awesome plyometric exercise using only bodyweight. Because this is a plyometric exercise, there is a higher amount of force put on your joints compared to an exercise which doesn’t require you to jump up and down off the ground. So, for obvious reasons, performing a burpee the right way is very important.


  • Do too many reps
  • Arch back and lose plank position
  • Move too slowly
  • Avoid range of motion


  • Increase speed once you have mechanics and form down
  • Keep torso in proper plank position when lowering and pushing back up
  • Open hips all the way at the top of each jump
  • Squat deep
  • Lower chest, belly and pelvis lower to floor

Woman Practicing Downward Facing Dog with Safe Alignment | Vitacost.com/Blog

7. Downward facing dog

This yoga pose is used in various fitness classes. If not done accurately, this stretch can put pressure and weight on your shoulders, upper arms and lower back, making this pose very strenuous and definitely not relaxing whatsoever.


  • Round lower back
  • Tilt pelvis forward
  • Let body weight sit onto shoulders
  • Lock knees
  • Point heels toward ceiling


  • Press hands into floor (as if you’re pushing it away) and spread fingers wide
  • Rotate upper arms toward the ground
  • Press thighs back toward hamstrings
  • Keep neck loose
  • Look toward the ground