You are here

10 Form Fails That'll Make You Cringe, as Demo'd by Stock Photos

  • Shutterstock

    Kettlebell Triceps Overhead

    Why the form is wrong: She's hinging in the low back, which indicates that she's not stabilized. "This exercise can cause significant strain on the shoulder joint depending on how heavy the kettlebell is," says Wendy Winn, PT, OCS, of New York Custom Physical Therapy in New York City. "It's important not to use too heavy of a weight here—you can really injure your back if it's not stabilized."

    What to do differently: Before jumping into kettlebell training, make sure you've nailed your form by starting with light weights, Winn suggests. "Focus on keeping your shoulder blades anchored down on the back—not shrugged up—and keep your arms straight up by your ears," she says. Your core should also be activated, and your butt tucked under your body.

  • Shutterstock

    Elliptical Workout

    Why the form is wrong: Look across any gym, and you're bound to see someone who looks just like this. The model's shoulders are rounded forward, which can lead to pain in the neck and shoulders, Winn says.

    What to do differently: Keep your form strong all the way until the end of your workout. Stand tall on the elliptical and maintain good posture, making sure your ears are aligned with your shoulders, Winn says.

  • Shutterstock


    Why the form is wrong: See that front knee? If you draw a line straight down from the knee to the ground, the line would hit far in front of the ankle. That's a result of her weight shifting forward, says Cat Fitzgerald, DPT, CSCS, of New York Custom Physical Therapy.

    What to do differently: Keep your weight centered to prevent the knee from inching forward, Fitzgerald says. And don't even think about touching or leaning on the front knee. It could lead to knee pain or cartilage damage, she says.

  • Shutterstock


    Why the form is wrong: With locked knees, she's leaning forward and hinging through her back, Winn says. She'll feel it the next day. The poor form can lead to low back disc herniation—and the upper hamstrings will become strained as a result of locking the knees.

    What to do differently: "Keep your center of mass over your legs, engage the core, and tuck your butt," Winn says. Your knees should be straight, but keep them loose and not locked.

  • Shutterstock


    Why the form is wrong: Her hips are outwardly rotated, knees are pointed away from the body, and all of her weight is on the inside of her feet, Fitzgerald says. "She's putting a lot of force through the inner portion of her knees," she says. "This bad squat form puts the knees in a very precarious position and will result in knee pain and even possibly dislocation."

    What to do differently: Bring your legs underneath your hips, and keep your hips in line with your ankles without letting them cave in, Fitzgerald says. As you go through the squat motion, pay particular attention to keeping your weight in your heels.

  • Shutterstock

    Overhead Press

    Why the form is wrong: "She is seriously violating our No. 1 guideline of stabilization!" Fitzgerald says. As a result of her poor form—hinging from the lower back, throwing her shoulders behind her, and bending her wrists inward—she faces shoulder impingement and rotator cuff issues.

    What to do differently: Engage your core, tuck your butt underneath your body, and keep your wrists in a nice, neutral position throughout the whole motion, she says.

  • Shutterstock

    Dumbbell Curls

    Why the form is wrong: Her poor posture is the first indication something's off. She's also keeping most of her weight on one side, which will limit the elbow's range of motion as she curls up. This could lead to one-sided lower-back pain, biceps tendonitis, and pain in the shoulder and elbow, Winn says.

    What to do differently: Stand tall and engage your core and glutes to stabilize. Once your position's set, move your forearm through full range of motion—from hanging straight down to all the way curled—without adjusting the position of your shoulder or leaning forward, Winn says.

  • Shutterstock


    Why the form is wrong: Ouch! Note her curved spine. "The lower spine is extending a lot, which can lead to low back disc herniation and neck strain," Fitzgerald says.

    What to do differently: To get your plank set, engage your core muscles, and tuck the pelvis forward and under your body to adjust, Fitzgerald says.

  • Shutterstock


    Why the form is wrong: Her spine's sagging down, head's dropped at the top of the push-up, and elbows are flaring out to the sides. All three indicate poor form and can lead to lower-back pain or strain at the front of the shoulder, Winn says.

    What to do differently: The goal is to keep the spine in a straight line. To get there, "engage your core, set your gaze slightly ahead of you to prevent your head from dropping, and tuck your elbows near your sides," Winn says.

  • Shutterstock

    Bicycle Crunch

    Why the form is wrong: "For a bicycle crunch, she should be twisting through waist, using her obliques, versus twisting through shoulders," Fitzgerald says. The model here is also squeezing her elbows too tightly and therefore not supporting her neck.

    What to do differently: Open the elbows wide and tighten the core without calling on your hip flexors or quads to hold your legs up. Twist through your obliques and return to start. Be sure to move slowly for the full impact of the exercise, Fitzgerald says.