In a new video on the Athlean-X channel, strength coach Jeff Cavaliere C.S.C.S. breaks down some of the most common and damaging mistakes that people can make on a variety of popular exercises. Whether you’re a beginner or have been training for years, he points out the simple flaws in technique that could hold you back when it comes to building strength and muscle, and offers some simple fixes—starting with legs.

According to Cavaliere, a lot of people choose leg extensions not necessarily because they’re looking to isolate their quads, but because they’re looking for an easier leg exercise. “Our quads get a lot of work,” he says. “I’d rather see you put your time into doing some additional hamstring or glute work, because I know you’ve probably got weak hams and glutes.”

If you decide to use leg curls to build strength in your hamstrings, then Cavaliere advises against driving your knees into the pad, as this over-activates the hip flexors and can create problems down the road, like lower back pain. He recommends engaging your glutes on each rep—or simply performing a seated or standing variation instead.

Moving onto the chest, Cavaliere addresses some of the issues that you might come up against while performing the machine chest fly, a.k.a. the “pec deck.” First off, don’t bend your arms backwards when entering the machine: rotate your whole body to bring the equipment into position before starting will eliminate needless stress.

When it comes to actually performing the machine, he adds: “You don’t want to do the bear hug motion… As you bear hug, you actually protract your shoulders, and as soon as your shoulders get out in front, your chest isn’t doing the work it’s supposed to. Instead, drive your body and chest back as your arms come forward.”

Then there’s that shoulder-building classic, the side lateral raise, and Cavaliere has an old beef with this exercise: “pouring the pitchers.” This refers to having your pinkie in a higher position than your thumb at the top end of the rep, as if pouring water. This can actually negatively affect your shoulder health, he explains. “Instead, what I do is lean my torso a little more forward, I keep my thumb higher than the pinkie to alleviate any of those concerns, and I still hit that middle delt really hard,” he says.

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Philip Ellis

Philip Ellis is a freelance writer and journalist from the United Kingdom covering pop culture, relationships and LGBTQ+ issues. His work has appeared in GQ, Teen Vogue, Man Repeller and MTV.

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