5 ways you might be screwing up your at-home workouts

Gyms and fitness centers have reopened but for some, exercise is still an at-home activity.

Gyms and fitness centers have reopened but for some, exercise is still an at-home activity. Yet without a personal trainer or instructor to tell you your push-up form is wrong, working out at home can be like working out in a vacuum.

Here are some of the most common home workout mistakes teachers and trainers see — and how to fix them:


“What we observed over the quarantine period is that a lot of people resort to randomized programs — stuff they see on social media or stuff their friends are doing — that they simply aren’t ready for,” said Clifton Hempstead, personal trainer and co-founder of Anthos Training Clubs.

Hempstead said a lot of these programs are high-intensity and designed to make you feel exhausted. Instead, he said you should seek out a program that is working toward a goal, with exercises you’re capable of doing.

“A lot of people shouldn’t be jumping around and moving side-to-side,” Hempstead said. “They’re doing all these exercises that they haven’t developed the prerequisites for.”

Training beyond your limits can result in injury, he said: “You might develop tendonitis in the knees; you might hurt an ankle,” he said. “Those (high-intensity) workouts are meant to beat you up, and that’s fine every once in a while, but to do that constantly … can be a recipe to hurt yourself.”


Alysha Bazan, trainer and fitness director at CrossTown Fitness, said weightlifting is one of the most common exercises she sees performed incorrectly — especially deadlifts, in which people will sometimes round their back while lifting.

“Take your time and don’t rush through the movement. Make sure that you’re stabilizing your core,” she said. “Make sure you’re doing the form properly without the weights first before loading it up.”

Home exercisers may not know how to plan a workout either, Bazan said: “Like, not knowing the proper exercises to pair together, especially if they’re loading up the weight, or how many reps and how many sets that they’re doing.”

Bazan said you can lift safely at home, and it might not require as much equipment as you think. “It seems like a lot of people have like one or two pieces of equipment at home — which is great and you can do a lot of things with the one piece of equipment,” Bazan said. “Especially if people have one dumbbelll or one kettlebell, you can do a lot of single-sided exercises.”


A lot of home workout programs that don’t require equipment include exercises such as planks, squats, push-ups and sit-ups. But having bad form can lead to injury, said Alex Nsiah-Kumi, trainer and owner of Paramount Personal Training.

When doing squats or lunges, your knees and toes should be going the same direction. “So that, long term, your knees don’t start bothering you,” he said. “Rep after rep, doing it wrong adds up.”

Planking can be hard on your lower back if you’re not doing it right, Nsiah-Kumi said. “Make sure it’s not going into your lower back at all. It should be more of a core thing. There should be no lower back tightness or pain.”

If you can’t perform an exercise, find a variation that scales it back to a point where you can have less pain, he said.


Yoga is best done in the presence of an instructor, said part-time yoga instructor Whitney Katz, who teaches at Namaskar Yoga. But that’s not always possible, even in in-person classes, she said: “Not being watched properly by a teacher has hurt me more than it’s helped me.”

Katz recommends making live, virtual classes part of your at-home yoga practice, especially if you’re a beginner. Even over the internet, having an instructor watching can help you tune the poses to your body.

“There’s not an ABC of bodies,” she said. “We all have different anatomy, and what might feel great for one body might feel horrible for another.”

But if you’d rather learn yoga through YouTube videos, Katz said it’s important to take it slow. “‘Beginner’ doesn’t always mean gentle,” she said. “You can get into some pretty complicated things in a beginning class.”

Katz said many video classes don’t offer modifications of poses that might make them work for different bodies. “If something doesn’t feel right, and you’re taking a prerecorded class, back off,” she said. “Don’t go as far.”


“You certainly are at risk for injury any time you exercise,” said personal trainer Shane Schroeder. “You want to check with your doctor to make sure it’s safe to start an exercise program.”

Schroeder also recommends getting a trainer who can help you virtually. His service, Train With Shane, delivers his programs to clients through and app and he follows up with weekly coaching calls.

People who use a free online program for fitness should do so with caution, he said.

“Listen to your body,” Schroeder said. If the pain goes beyond normal muscle burn or fatigue into joint pain, you might be injuring yourself. “Let your body be your guide.”


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