Do you ever question if you’re performing certain exercises correctly? Today I’m taking you through three dumbbell exercises that I see performed incorrectly the most-often. We’ll talk about what they are, why you might be doing them wrong, and what you can do to fix this problem.
As an avid gym-goer, I see a lot of people performing a lot of exercises everyday.
As a physical therapist who happens to also work in a gym, I also see a lot of people performing exercises incorrectly.
Now performing reps incorrectly not only hurts the gains you’re so desperately chasing, it also increases your susceptibility to injury.
Therefore – it’s vital that when you perform your exercises you do them correctly with good form!
That’s why today I wanted to share with you three upper body exercises that I see performed incorrectly ALL THE TIME. We’ll talk about what they are, what’s not right about these exercises, and give you some advice on what you can do to solve these problems.
WHY SHOULD I LIFT WEIGHTS?
Lifting weights is the best way to increase muscle activation. This typically results in stronger, more defined muscles and increased strength output overall. Lifting weights also increases your metabolism as your body requires more energy even while at rest. This means you burn more calories throughout your day than you would if you didn’t workout with weights.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO PERFORM EXERCISES CORRECTLY? Is exercise form important?
ABSOLUTELY. You’re obviously exercising with a goal in mind. Whether that goal is to lose weight, feel healthier, gain muscle, etc – properly performing exercises is the quickest way to get there.
Even more importantly – performing your exercises with proper form will help you to avoid injury. This means less pain, less restriction, and less time off from exercising and doing other things that you love.
I tell patients in my clinic all the time – I’m more concerned about the quality of your reps than I am about how much weight you’re lifting. If it’s too difficult to perform and exercise at a given weight with good form then you need to decrease the weight/resistance.
WHAT’S THE FASTEST WAY TO GROW MUSCLES?
If you’re looking to tone and sculpt lean, long muscles, the best way to do it is by performing more reps in fewer sets. 3 sets of 10-12 reps is a good number to shoot for. If you’re looking to increase muscle mass and put on some bulk, you should shoot for heavier weights, fewer reps, and more sets. 4-5 sets of 6-8 is a good number to shoot for.
***Now when it comes to weight-lifting, the two most-common mistakes I see in the gym are:***
1. NO ACTIVE CONTRACTION AGAINST RESISTANCE – this is a common mistake I see with dumbbell exercises. Gravity is always going to work straight down, no matter what. When working out with dumbbells, your resistance will always be straight up and down. You can’t perform a resisted lateral motion with dumbbells and expect to increase muscle activation.
2. NOT UTILIZING FULL RANGE OF MOTION – half reps make half gains. If you’re not taking the muscle from a fully-lengthened position to a fully-contracted position you’re selling yourself short. You’ll burn maximum calories and gain maximum strength when you start exercising through your muscles’ entire range of motion. This is true for upper-body as well as lower-body exercises.
To illustrate these points, here are the three exercises I see in the gym most-commonly performed with bad form. These are all upper body dumbbell exercises; I’ll demonstrate what’s wrong about them and why and then show you what you can do to fix them!
Standing Dumbbell External Rotation
I often see this one performed holding a pair of dumbbells, elbows bent to 90 degrees, and then rotating the dumbbells away from your body back behind you. People perform this as a shoulder exercise. The thing is – gravity is pushing those dumbbells straight down. There’s actually no resistance to the rotation motion, and it becomes an isometric biceps contraction with some shoulder movement.
HOW TO FIX IT
Grab some bands or a cable and perform the same motion. Now the resistance is horizontal instead of vertical and the force output can be maximized.
Dumbbell Biceps Curls
The most-common problem with the standing biceps curl is people don’t utilize their full range of motion. Even at the bottom of the curl they keep their elbows bent slightly and then curl the weight up to their chest/shoulder. This becomes a static biceps contraction with a lot of shoulder activation where the goal is to maximize the biceps contraction.
HOW TO FIX IT
Make sure you take your elbow all the way into full extension (all the way out straight) at the bottom of the biceps curl. I even encourage people to contract your triceps (the muscle on the back of your arm) at the bottom of your curl so as to maximize your biceps motion and force output.
Dumbbell Skull Crusher
The problem I see with this one is that at the top of the contraction the weight is straight up to the ceiling and directly over the shoulder joint. With the weight over your elbows over your shoulders gravity is pushing straight down through the arms and into the shoulders. There’s very little muscle activation in this position as the weight of the exercises is loaded through the bones of the arms.
HOW TO FIX IT
Try to keep your elbows “higher” – up towards your eyes. At the top of the contraction, keep the weight directly over the top of your head, not directly over your shoulder. This will ensure that your muscle never relaxes and that the contraction is maximized during the entire exercise.
Looking for a few workouts to perfect your newly-acquired knowledge? I’ve got you covered!
These are 6 of my favorite upper body workouts you can do with just a pair of dumbbells…
WHERE’S THE BEST PLACE TO GET DUMBBELLS?
If you’re looking to buy a set of dumbbells for your home workouts, I typically recommend one of two sets to people.
THIS SET is perfect for home workout beginners looking to tone muscle with simple home workouts. You get three neoprene-coated dumbbell sets including 3 pounds, 5 pounds, and 8 pounds. The more weights you have the more exercises you can do with a weight that is appropriately challenging. CLICK HERE to get yours!
Now, if you’re looking for something a little more serious… THIS SET is the one that I have at home and LOVE it. These dumbbells are adjustable from 5 to 52.5 pounds each and offer a TON of variety to your workouts. They’re so versatile and there’s so much you can do with them. They don’t take up a lot of space and are simple to adjust. CLICK THIS LINK to learn more (affiliate links – I get a small cut of your purchase at zero additional cost to you).
As always, if you have any questions or comments please don’t hesitate to reach out and let me know!
Make it happen,