10 Most Common Workout Mistakes People ALWAYS Make & How To Fix! [From A CPT]


Written by: Liz Brown - Jul. 8, 2019

workout mistakes  

If you’ve ever done an exercise and wondered if you were doing it correctly, or maybe you felt “the burn” somewhere you probably shouldn’t have, you’re not alone! In fact, you’d be surprised at how many workout mistakes people make when they exercise. 

I’ve been a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) with the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) since 2012, and trust me when I say that I’ve seen my fair share of exercise mistakes over the years. I’ve even seen some of the most experienced gym-goers using improper form or poor technique during an exercise. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, we’re all guilty of it from time to time, but I won’t lie to you—if certain workout mistakes continue to go unaddressed or uncorrected, they could potentially lead to muscular imbalances that contribute to postural issues, or worse, injury.

But not to worry! Today I’m going to share with you the top 10 most common workout mistakes that people ALWAYS make. We’ll take a look at what the exercise should look and feel like, and how you can easily fix any mistakes you’re making to avoid injury and maximize your results.

Workout Mistakes

10 Of The Most Common Workout Mistakes & How To Fix

Exercising can be tricky. If you’re unfamiliar with how an exercise is supposed to look, or more importantly, how it’s supposed to feel, you might be guilty of these common exercise mistakes. 

1. Planks

Planks are, by far, one of the most common exercises people do improperly. They’re also one of the most important because they not only teach you how to engage your core while it’s under tension, but they also build the strength of the core muscles to improve your overall form and technique during other exercises. The primary muscle groups used during a plank are all of the muscles in your core, shoulders, triceps, and even your quads. 

Proper plank posture

What You’re Doing Wrong

  • Sagging midsection—Hips and stomach are protruding out with an arch in your lower back. If you feel pain or tension in your lower back during your plank or immediately after, you might be sagging your hips! 
  • Butt too high—Although it’s not the cutest look in the world, keeping your butt TUCKED during a plank is crucial. (Half the models you see on IG that stick their butts in the air for the photo… yeah, they’re doing it wrong.)
  • Sinking chest—If your chest is sinking, this means your shoulder blades are most likely visible along your upper back! This is a no-no in planking.
  • Head tucked or lifted—Tucking your chin towards your chest or tilting it back during a plank is considered improper form.
  • Wrists and shoulders not aligned—Not keeping your shoulders and wrists aligned during a plank can cause pain in your wrists. 
  • Toes not tucked—Ballerina toes are not permitted during a plank.

How To Fix

  • Sagging midsection & butt too high—When performing a plank, the most important thing to remember is to pull your pelvis inward (and upward) toward your belly button. If you can do this while keeping your back flat (not lifting your butt or sagging your hips) you will feel the “burn” in your core, not in your lower back. This ensures that you are engaging your core and relieving any pressure off of your lower back. 
  • Sinking chest—Engaging your chest is the quickest way to fix this issue. Push your hands toward the ground while lifting your back away from it. It might feel weird at first but imagine you’re pushing the ground away from you. Once your shoulder blades are level with your back and your chest is engaged, you’re good to go.
  • Head tucked or lifted—Keep your head in a neutral position. Sometimes finding a spot on the ground to keep your gaze is a good trick to keeping your head stable. 
  • Wrists and shoulders not aligned—Keep a firm grip on the floor by spreading your fingers. Keep the weight evenly distributed throughout your fingers and palm. 
  • Toes not tucked—Shift your weight slightly toward the back of your body. Once you can feel a slight stretch in your calf, you’ll know you’re in a good spot. 

2. Sit-ups

If you want to earn yourself a set of six-pack abs but don’t have any equipment, sit-ups are a great option. The primary muscles used during a sit-up are, of course, your abs! If you feel pain in your neck, or too much tension in your hip flexors, you might be guilty of one of these exercise mistakes… 

sit-ups posture

What You’re Doing Wrong

  • Pulling your neck—Pulling on the bottom of your neck or pushing your head down adds unnecessary tension to the back of your neck.
  • Looking at the ceiling—Lifting your head so high that it’s toward the ceiling pulls the muscles in your neck.
  • Anchoring your feet—Using something to keep your feet stable on the ground.
  • Catapulting yourself up—Using your momentum to catapult yourself up.

How To Fix

  • Pulling your neck and lifting your head—Place your fingers slightly behind your ears with your elbows out. This helps prevent you from pulling on your neck or pushing the back of your head. Keep your neck in a neutral position.
  • Tucking your chin—Tucking your chin to your chest–keep your chin untucked and gaze towards the ceiling. this will keep your neck straight, prevent any straining, and help you target your abdominals more effectively.
  • Anchoring your feet—Keep your feet stable on the floor. 
  • Catapulting yourself up—Keep your hands gently behind your ears and engage your core muscles during the movement. If you start to feel a little too much tension in your hip flexors (the area on your hips that crease as you sit up) and feel the need to use this method, simply perform a crunch and only lift yourself halfway up before returning to your starting position. 

3. Standard Push-ups 

Dear push-ups, I feel like so many of us have a love-hate relationship with you all thanks to childhood P.E. trauma… but, you are essential for building optimal upper body strength, so I digress. When performing a standard push-up, you should feel the tension in your chest, triceps, abs, and quads. 

push-up form

What You’re Doing Wrong

  • Elbows out—When your elbows flare out you can add unnecessary pressure to your wrists and the tendons in your elbows. 
  • Elbows tucked—While this is an accurate arm position for a tricep pushup, your chest no longer becomes the prime mover when your arms are in this position. 
  • Sagging midsection—Pain in your lower back? This could be a sign you have poor posture during your push-up! 
  • Hands too far forward—When your hands are too far forward your elbows create a T-shape, no bueno!
  • Sinking chest—If your chest is sinking when performing your push-ups, you may notice that your shoulder blades are not only exposed, but hitting one another on the lowering movement of the push-up.

How To Fix

  • Elbows out or tucked—Keep your elbows slightly tucked in and your shoulder blades together. They shouldn’t be directly up against your side or completely out, but somewhere in the middle.
  • Sagging midsection—Similar to a plank, you should pull your pelvis inward (and upward) toward your belly button.
  • Hands too far forward—Place your hands directly under your elbows. The movement should look like an A-shape, not a T-shape.
  • Sinking chest—If you sink your chest during a push-up, you might not have the strength to complete one with proper form just yet. I recommend lowering to your knees for the push-up or performing a chest press instead. You’ll also want to make sure you are bending your elbows as you lower yourself to the bottom of the movement. Your arms should end up at about 90 degrees.  

4. Lunges

Lunges are great for toning and strengthening your legs and booty! The primary muscles used are your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves. Performing lunges incorrectly can often lead to patellar tendonitis. This is when the tendon in your kneecap becomes inflamed due to stress. Not only is this painful and uncomfortable during exercise, but also increases your risk of worsening the injury.

Proper lunges form

What You’re Doing Wrong

  • Front knee too far forward—Your knee is extending farther than your front toe when you’re at the bottom of your lunge. If you feel any pain or “pulling” in your kneecap, it’s best to correct this workout mistake ASAP!
  • Excessive forward lean—Your upper body is leaning too far forward and your chest is down. 
  • Feet too far—You’re taking too large of steps,  this can prevent your back leg from lowering properly into the lunge. It can also add excess tension to your hip flexor and pull your core out of alignment. 

How To Fix

  • Front knee too far forward—Try to keep your front knee aligned with your heel as you lunge and push through your front heel as you return to your starting position.
  • Excessive forward lean—Look straight ahead and keep your chest up.
  • Feet too far—Take slightly smaller steps. As you lower into the bottom of your lunge, both of your legs should be in a 90-degree angle.

5. Triceps dips

Tricep dips are primarily used to strengthen the short-head of the triceps brachii. This means that when you perform a tricep dip, the position you’re moving into activates the back of your arm to help build strength.

Proper Triceps Dips Form

What You’re Doing Wrong

  • Elbows out—Elbows flare out to the side. This can cause pain in the wrist and elbows.
  • Shrugging—If your shoulders feel like they’re up to your ears during a tricep dip, you’re most likely shrugging.

How To Fix

  • Elbows out—As you lower into the bottom part of your tricep dip, try to keep your elbows tucked in. They should stay in alignment with your wrists and your shoulders.
  • Shrugging—Make sure to keep your chest up and your head and neck in neutral position. 

6. Donkey Kicks

This is a staple exercise if you’re looking to get a perky, toned tush! A common misconception about the donkey kick is the higher you kick, the more muscles you’re working. I’m happy to report that in this case, putting in too much effort can actually cause you more harm than good. So, you can actually put in a little less effort and still maximize your results.

Proper Donkey Kicks Form

What You’re Doing Wrong

  • Lifting your foot too high—Hyperextending your leg during a donkey kick can not only throw your form out of whack, but it can strain your lower back instead of building the muscles in your gluteus maximus. 
  • Overarching your back—If your back is arching and your tummy is dipping toward the ground, you’re not engaging your core! This can also be a result of lifting your foot too high. 
  • Lifting or tucking your head too much—Your chin is either too high or too low. 

How To Fix

  • Lifting your foot too high—Pull your pelvis inward (and upward) toward your belly button. You don’t need to kick your leg high in order to feel the resistance. In fact, you’ll be able to feel active tension in the prime mover with even just a small lift of the leg.
  • Overarching your back—Keeping your core engaged and avoiding a high leg kick will help prevent an overarching back.
  • Lifting or tucking your head too much—Keep your head in a neutral position and aligned with your spine. 

7. Overhead Presses

An overhead press involves lifting a weight (or weights) above your head. I can’t stress enough how important it is to use proper form and technique during any weighted exercise. If you can’t complete a weighted exercise with good form, I highly recommend mastering a bodyweight exercise before graduating to weights, or finding an appropriate weight for your skill level. The primary muscles used in an overhead press are your shoulders, traps, and lats. 

Proper Overhead Press Form

What You’re Doing Wrong

  • You’re stiff as a board—Your legs are locked and you’re restricting your movement. This adds an intense amount of pressure onto your joints. 
  • Overarching your back—If your back arches during an overhead press, this might be a sign that the weight you’re lifting is too heavy for you or that you are not engaging your core.

How To Fix

  • You’re stiff as a board—Whenever you perform any weighted exercise, it’s important to keep your joints loose to brace the weight. Keep a slight bend in your needs while still maintaining control over your body.
  • Overarching your back—Keep your core engaged!

8. Standard Deadlifts

A standard deadlift is a full-body exercise that uses most of the muscles in your body—the primary muscles being the quads, hamstrings, glutes, lower back, and traps. It’s a great total body exercise to add to your routine if you can master the form and technique.

Proper deadlift form

What You’re Doing Wrong

  • Arching your back—The biggest mistake you can make when performing a deadlift is arching your back. Your back is hunched, shoulders curled inward, and pelvis tucked in. 
  • Squatting—A deadlift does require a bend in the knee, but it’s important to keep your hips back. The second you drop your hips and you perform a squat movement, you are no longer using proper form. 
  • Not bending your knees enough—This workout mistake is often paired with an overarching back. If you’re not bending your knees and simply bending over to pick your weights up off the floor, you’re going to have a big problem. 

How To Fix

  • Arching your back—Pull your shoulders back, push your chest out, and make sure your head and neck remain in a neutral position and aligned with your spine. Keep this form as you lower into the movement. 
  • Squatting—A deadlift is actually a hip-hinge movement. This means that while you’re performing the deadlift, your hips should move the way a door moves when you open it and close it. Push your butt back, bending the knees as you lower the weight. Keep the weight close to you body. 
  • Not bending your knees enough—Push your butt back and keep your back straight. 

9. Romanian Deadlifts

A Romanian deadlift, while similar to the traditional deadlift, is merely done with straight legs, not bent. The primary muscles used in this style of deadlift are mainly on your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back. 

Proper romanian deadlift form

What You’re Doing Wrong

  • Arching your back—Just like a traditional deadlift, the biggest mistake you can make when performing a romanian deadlift is arching your back. If your back is hunched, your shoulders are curled inward, and your pelvis tucked in, you have some improvements to make. 
  • Knees locked out—Although this exercise is also known as a “stiff-legged deadlift,” locking your knees is a no-no and adds immense pressure to your knee joints.
  • Keeping the weight on your heels—Leaning back while you’re at the bottom of your Romanian deadlift won’t activate the appropriate muscles you need for this exercise to be effective.

How To Fix

  • Arching your back—Pull your shoulders back, push your chest out, and make sure your head and neck remain in a neutral position and aligned with your spine. Keep this form as you lower into the movement. 
  • Knees locked out—Despite popular belief, you can keep your legs straight without locking your knees—just make sure they don’t bend too much.
  • Keeping the weight on your heels—As you move to the bottom of the exercise, shift your weight toward the front of your feet while maintaining a firm stance on the ground. 

10. Bent Over Rows

Bent over rows are an excellent exercise for your back and arms! However, people often approach this exercise with improper form which can dilute the benefits!

Proper bent over rows

What You’re Doing Wrong

  • Arching your back—If your back is hunched, your shoulders are curled inward, and pelvis is tucked in, this is a huge red flag that you need to adjust your form. 
  • Shrugging your shoulders—Your shoulders are high up by your ears.
  • Elbows are out—If your elbows are wide as you pull the weight, you’re most likely using your arms too much.

How To Fix

  • Arching your back—Pull your shoulders back, push your chest out, and make sure your head and neck remain in a neutral position and aligned with your spine. 
  • Shrugging your shoulders—Relax your shoulders while keeping the lats engaged. Your lats, or latissimus dorsi, is the largest muscle along your back. This muscle is primarily responsible for any pulling movement. 
  • Elbows are out—If you’re using a barbell, your grip might be too close together. Align your grip to be slightly wider than your shoulders. Keep your elbows back and in an A-shape. 

What Else Can You Do To Prevent Workout Mistakes?

When you have weak bones, joints, and muscles, it makes these workout mistakes even harder to avoid. In fact, people who have poor bone and joint health are more likely to experience an athletic-related injury compared to those with healthy bones! Thankfully, there is something you can do to minimize your risk of injury. The easiest and most cost-effective solution to heal achy joints or weak bones and muscles is to take a collagen supplement, like SkinnyFit Super Youth, twice a day. 

Collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies and is considered the “glue” that holds everything together. It’s responsible for keeping our bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles, and even our hair, skin, and nails operating in top condition. As we age, our collagen storage starts to decline (around the ages of 25-30), and the physical signs of aging start to appear—often causing achy joints and muscles, brittle bones, excess soreness, and even injury.

To learn more about how collagen can help you avoid injuries in the future, check out 5 Undeniable Reasons You Will Benefit From Taking Collagen For Joints.

Super Youth for Bone and Joint Health

The Bottom Line On Workout Mistakes

Anyone can find themselves performing an exercise incorrectly, but it’s important to remember that these types of workout mistakes can be fixed! Correcting poor form can prevent muscular imbalances, postural issues, and even injury. You can replenish your body of its natural collagen and combat bone and joint issues by taking two scoops of Super Youth daily.

SkinnyFit Super Youth



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