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Without proper guidance and professional instruction most people and athletes have incorrect form while lifting weights resulting in poor mechanics throughout the entire exercise.

Maintaining a Five Point Contact is key to performing all resistance exercises.  This is a subject I covered in an earlier article called “Maintaining Proper Spinal Alignment While Resistance Training”.

Here is a list of some of the most common mistakes made during these lifts followed by correction’s as these are the ones most often performed with improper technique.

Bicep Curls


Rounded shoulder position throughout movement with no scapular stability.

Head tilted down and forward and excessive upper arm movement.

Elbows placed against side of body, just above hips.

Standing completely upright allowing lower back to go into excessive lordosis.

Swinging of entire body.


Shoulders slightly pulled back and stable, the weight should be supported by posterior deltoids and scapular musculature.  This will help with preventing the upper arm from going into too much shoulder flexion or extension.

Do not place elbows against body while curling. This will create unnecessary stress on glenohumeral joint and result in tendonitis. Elbows should be in line with upper body and about a golf or tennis balls distance away from sides of body.

Position head in neutral, looking straight ahead and without dropping chin towards chest.  Tucking chin downwards will result in rounding shoulders and loss of scapular stability.

Stand in a partial squat initiated from hips, not the knees and keep core musculature tight throughout. This will prevent swaying of the entire body and help protect against lower back injury.

Work bicep throughout entire range of motion, making sure bicep is under constant tension throughout entire movement.

Bench Press


Protracting shoulder blades at top end of the movement.

Flattened thoracic spine while lying on bench, resulting in rounding of shoulders.

Locking elbows out at top range of motion.

Bouncing bar off of sternum at bottom end of exercise.

Lifting rear end (buttocks) off bench while performing exercise.


Maintain a 5-point contact position while lying on bench.

Do not flatten spine out on bench. Thoracic spine should be in neutral position to minimize any back, neck, or shoulder injuries.

Shoulder blades should be in contact with bench at all times. Do not protract them forward.

Lower bar slowly to mid sternum, and lightly touch bar 2 to 3 inches superior of xyphoid process.

Press bar straight up without locking elbows out.

Do not lift buttocks off bench in the process of doing so.  This is a good way to get injured while doing this exercise.

Keep back of head in contact of bench at all times.  Lifting head up will round shoulders forward, which is not desirable.

Straight Leg Dead Lift:


Not maintaining normal spinal lordosis and initiating motion from lower back and performing motion with a rounded spine.

Not maintaining scapular stability and allowing shoulders to round forward.

Letting knees go into hyper-extension, losing all muscular support in knees, allowing too much stress on posterior cruciate ligament.

Having too much flexion or movement in knees while performing lift.

Letting chin drop down towards sternum and rounding upper back.


Maintain normal spinal lordosis throughout entire motion of lift.

Keep shoulders back by maintaining scapular stability, without shrugging.

Lift should be initiated from hips, not low back.

Knees should have a slight bend in them to keep excessive stress off posterior cruciate ligament.

Head should remain in neutral plane entire time or slightly looking upward looking straight ahead.

Negative part of exercise should be done slowly in order to avoid injuring low back.

Barbell and Dumbbell Squats:


Initiating motion from knees and not the hips.

Having too much hip flexion during exercise.

Both knees buckle in towards each other during negative and positive contraction of the exercise.

Allowing lower back to round and not maintaining normal lordosis.


Initiate the squat from the hips not the knees.  The hips are where the power comes from and the knees act as a secondary joint, they follow the lead of the hips.  Do not come up onto balls of feet.

Do not lean too far forward; otherwise this becomes a back extension and flexion exercise.  Imagine a cable is attached to the superior part of your sternum and the ceiling keeping your chest up.  Much the same as doing a squat in a 7-degree smith machine.

Keep knees in line with toes. It is OK to let knees go past toes as long as your feet stay in contact with the floor completely.   If you have a long femur and follow that ridiculous rule of not ever allowing knees to surpass toes, the squat cannot be performed within a full range of 90 degrees or lower.  We are all for full range motions.

Do not let knees buckle inwards or outwards of line of toes. This is a good way to tear a meniscus.  If you cannot control this than lower the weight load.

Start with a stance just past hip width for greater stability. Keep feet in position of which you normally stand.  As you master the squat then try a narrower stance, as this is more difficult to perform.

Maintain normal lordosis throughout entire exercise.

To be continued with more exercises in next article……

Jon J. Torerk, CSCS