You’ll Be Surprised By How Many People Do These Simple Exercises Totally Wrong

Want to know the surefire way to not get results from your workout? Don’t do the exercises properly.

This probably seems like an odd question, but believe it or not, there are a few common exercises out there that most people are doing improperly. Heck, you probably do some of these on a regular basis and didn’t even know you weren’t doing them right! But don’t worry — you are one of many.

Lateral pull-downs

A woman does a lateral pull down at a gym.

Prevent an injury by using this equipment correctly. | Antonio Diaz/iStock/Getty Images

Working the lats appeals to everyone. It gives men strong backs and helps women get rid of the flap of skin that bulges over their bra straps. But sadly, many gym-goers are doing this exercise wrong. Individuals doing this exercise with free weights have a tendency to hold their arms in line with the rest of their body — too far back to properly work your lateral muscles. And those people who pull the bar down behind their necks? They are asking for a future filled with neck and shoulder problems.

How to do them properly

Woman holding dumbells above her head.

Grab some free weights — you can tone without the stress. | Barryj13/iStock/Getty Images

Sticking to free weights is the best way to avoid both improper form and injury. Follow‘s lead and try barbell pull-overs and inverted rows. These are both exceptional and underrated upper-body exercises that will get you toned the right way.


A man in the middle of a burpee.

Burpees can be strenuous on the body, especially if you’re using bad form. | DeanDrobot/iStock/Getty Images

This CrossFit staple should really be part of everyone’s workout regimen — it serves as both cardio and resistance training, and is great at getting your heart rate going. But with its heightened level of difficulty also comes a higher chance of doing the exercise wrong. Far too often, individuals will speed through the motions of burpees so he or she can get through the exercise as quickly as possible. This results in improper form, which can put pressure on your joints and lead to injury.

How to do them properly

A woman in the middle of a plank pose.

Don’t sweat it — burpees are challenging. | Shironosov/iStock/Getty Images

In all honesty, burpees are a more advanced movement. So if you are a beginner but want to work your way up to doing this exercise, start with a modified burpee sequence. (We at The Cheat Sheet are big fans of this rendition of modified burpees, appropriately called “murpees.”) Doing an alternative kind of burpees is also great for individuals that have bad knees, or are obese and just starting to lose weight. A slightly easier version allows you to reap some of the benefits of the exercise without hurting yourself.


Fit woman doing full plank core exercise.

Doing a plank incorrectly could cause a major wrist injury. | Undrey/iStock/Getty Images

When done correctly, a plank can serve as an all-over toning mechanism and give you a rock-solid core. Unfortunately, far too many people do this exercise incorrectly. It’s common to see someone with their hips sticking straight up in the air or sagging, not keeping their whole body in a straight line. This, in turn, will not yield any results. Plus, improper hip placement shifts your center and leads to the shoulders not being stacked properly over the hands. And being imbalanced over your hands can cause debilitating wrist pain.

How to do it properly

Three attractive sport girls doing plank exercise lying on yoga mat in fitness class.

Mastering the plank can lead to a stronger core. | Bojan89/iStock/Getty Images

Never go it alone when it comes to doing planks — do them in front of a mirror, or have someone help you get into position. Before you prop up into your plank, make sure that your shoulders are properly stacked on top of your elbows and wrists so your foundation is solid. Once in your plank, it is imperative that your body is held in a straight line. Engage your abdominal muscles to help hold your torso in place. Keeping your neck in line with your back and your focus trained on the floor in front of you helps keep your whole body in line.

Elliptical workout

People at the gym doing cardio on elliptical machines.

The elliptical isn’t as effective as you might think. | MaxRiesgo/iStock/Getty Images

This popular workout machine is one of the most widely misused in gyms across the country. Too many people keep this machine on an easy setting with not enough resistance, and end up not working their muscles enough. Additionally, the calorie counters on elliptical machines are extremely inaccurate. So most people think they are getting this amazing workout in, then are discouraged when they haven’t lost much weight.

How to do it properly

People exercising on elliptical machines at a gym.

You can totally break more than just a sweat on the elliptical. | Nd3000/iStock/Getty Images

To get the most out of your elliptical, the workout needs to be at least a little bit challenging. You should feel as though you are pushing through your elliptical motions, not whizzing through them. And if burning calories and losing weight are your goals, it is best to talk to a trainer to get a better idea of what you are doing in a workout session.