If you are doing any of these things in the gym, then I’ve got two words for you…
1. Wearing Bad Shoes
Wearing the wrong pair of shoes for the activity will be less effective and can even get you hurt. So, a pair of shoes designed for distance running would not be your best option for lifting, just like a pair of Olympic lifting shoes would not be a smart choice for running.
Unless you want to buy 4-5 different pairs of shoes for all your different activities, your best bet is to just buy a good all around training shoe. Things to look for:
- A flat sole. This means minimal or no heel lift.
- Minimal cushioning. If you are going to lift in them, you don’t want the sole to compress under weight.
Angry Arnold Meter: Low
2. Squatting With Toes Pointed Out Excessively
Squat stance, style, and form will of course vary from person to person based on a number of factors, like anatomy, anthropometry, mobility, etc. Ignoring all of that (because that would be way too much to cover in just one post), there is a very good reason to avoid squatting with your toes pointed way out.
That reason is to avoid a very common error in the squat, which is falling forward (or less often, falling back). Again, this can also happen for a ton of reasons, but if you take a look at the picture below you’ll see why foot position can be one cause.
In the top picture, a more moderate toes out position, you can see the width of my base (front to back) is 11.5″. When I point my toes out, that decreases to 8″. A narrow base will make it more difficult to keep the weight centered over the middle of your foot, and more likely to let the weight drift forward – a position you are not nearly as strong in.
Angry Arnold Meter: Low
3. Overuse of “Balance” Exercises
Having good balance is great for injury prevention, sports performance, and just everyday life. The problem is that WAY too much emphasis is placed on doing “balance” exercises on stability balls, bosu balls, or balance boards.
Sports, and life, take place on the ground, a solid surface. Therefore, it makes sense to train your body to “balance” itself by applying force to a solid surface. There is very little evidence, if any, that shows training on unstable surfaces like a bosu ball improves your ability to balance on a stable surface. If anything, the evidence shows that you produce much less force, usually not enough to illicit strength gains.
Can it make an exercise harder? Sure. But remember, harder does not always equal better. If I were to punch you in the head during a set of squats, that would make the exercise harder. I doubt you would get any more benefit out of it though.
These exercises can be useful in some cases, especially when rehabbing injury, but they can not take the place of traditional ground based strength exercises – in athlete or general population training.
Angry Arnold Meter: Moderate to High
4. Bad Bench Press Liftoff/Handoff
This gets screwed up ALL THE TIME. And it makes Arnold very upset.
The bench press is the only exercise I can think of where people are paralyzed or die every year due to accidents. Seems like something that is kind of important and you probably want to do correctly.
Failure to set the bar BEFORE the descent can set the lifter up for missed reps and/or injury. What does setting the bar mean? It means that when you take the bar off the rack, you pause for a short time with arms straight and the bar over your chest. Then you start to lower the bar.
If you are getting a liftoff from a spotter this is even more important. You need a set point where they let go of the bar and you take it’s full weight. If you don’t do this, they are essentially dropping the bar on you with it over your face/neck. Take a look at the video to see what I mean.