5 Exercises That Get Butchered and How To Correct

5 Exercises That Get Butchered and How To Correct

“Hey Johnny, could you write a guest post for my blog on 5 exercises people butcher and how to fix them?” – me

“There’s a million of those.” – Johnny Tea

As much as Johnny Tea and I agreed that there are a plethora of exercises done incorrectly, we kept it at  five. You know, to avoid turning a blog post into an encyclopedia. You’re welcome.

Johnny Tea is a California-based strength coach and massage therapist who I feel is the king of coaching up exercises and having his clients perform pristine form. Enjoy.

There’s nothing worse than bringing your A game to the gym, crushing set after set, rep after rep, only to find out you’re not reaping the benefits of an exercise due to bad form. Look, I get it, we’ve all been there before. I’m sure if you stop by your local gym tonight, you’ll find a Santa’s list of exercises done incorrectly that will make you want to pull your hair out.


But this post isn’t about disparaging you or your intentions or others for that matter, but rather help point you in the right direction. We all have crazy busy lives and the last thing we want is wasted time and energy in the gym. Well, this post is going to help maximize your time in the gym by correcting common exercises that I see get butchered on quite a few occasions.

Here are the top 5 exercises that get butchered and how to correct them:

Hanging Leg Raises

The Hanging Leg Raise is an awesome ab exercise when done correctly. A couple common mistakes are not keeping your shoulders in a stable position and allowing your body to swing back and forth like you’re trying to dry hump your own face.


To create a stable position, start off by keeping your shoulders packed, or slightly retracted. Then, while keeping your feet together, create tension throughout your body and initiate the movement from your core rather than your hips and back. Control the momentum as you lower your legs back to the starting position. Be sure not to let your back overextend. You can accomplish this by keeping your legs slightly in front of you as opposed to being perfectly straight.


            The birddog is a great exercise that teaches you how to disassociate hip from lumbar extension and when done properly, improves rotary stability, core activation, and spinal alignment. Some common mistakes are allowing your lower back to dip or round, hip rotation, and forward head tilt.

Note from Erica: Another compensation I see is lateral shifting of the hips. This could mean a muscle imbalance in the hips or a lack of rotary stability. Be cognizant of any shifting and push yourself to bring your body back to the center.


To keep your spine neutral, start off by placing a dowel on your back and maintain three points of contact with your head, upper back, and lower back. A simple cue I use with my clients is to imagine tilting your belt buckle up towards your chin. While keeping your spine neutral, brace your core, raise the opposite arm and leg while maintaining the three points of contact with the dowel. Doing so will prevent your hips from rotating and your back from overextending.

Note from Erica: To kick up the core challenge a notch, make sure hands are placed directly beneath the shoulders, and shift your weight forward. A cue I like to use is “press your hands into the ground and push the floor back.”

Bear Crawls

Bear Crawls are one of my favorite exercises to program for all of my clients, both athletes and non-athletes, to work on improving scapular upward rotation and shoulder stability. Considering most people lack upward rotation and the scapula is generally anteriorly tilted, I’d say this exercise is a must for all people. Common mistakes are letting your hips shoot up, losing tension in your core and shoulders, and taking steps that are too large.


To keep your hips from shooting up, keep tension in your core and take smaller strides. Start off by setting up on all fours, keep your hips slightly above your shoulders, and brace your core. Reach with your right arm and step with your left leg simultaneously and exhale every time your hand touches the ground. A cue I often use with my clients is inhale as you reach and exhale as you plant. Instead of focusing on covering as much distance as you can with each step and speeding through the drill, focus on slowing down the tempo and taking smaller steps. I promise you’ll feel the difference.

Note from Erica: Be sure to focus on contralateral movement of the limbs. Too often, I see people performing a funky ipsilateral pattern, which is a bad habit to get into, especially if you’re an athlete who wants to improve running coordination.


            Push-ups get a reputation for being primarily a chest and triceps exercise but when done correctly, work your entire body including your shoulders and core to go along with the aforementioned muscle groups. The biggest struggle I notice people have is their head tilting forward, tucking their elbows either too close or flaring out too wide, losing tension in their shoulders, core, and glutes, and overextending their lower back which leads to their hips sagging to the ground.


To achieve proper form, start off by keeping your chin tucked down and back (yes, like a double chin), brace your core and slightly tuck your pelvis forward (like the belt buckle thing), squeeze your glutes, and keep your elbows at a 45 degree angle. As you descend, keep a straight line from your head down to your heels and maintain this form as you push back up. You should feel tension in your entire body, not just your chest and triceps.

Glute Bridges

Glute Bridges are a simple hip extension exercise that target the glutes. Considering most of us sit way too long (think hip flexion) and suffer from glute amnesia, it’s important to reverse this by performing more hip extension exercises. The biggest mistakes I notice people make are extending from their lower back instead of the hips, losing tension in their core and glutes, and allowing their heels to come up off the floor.


To prevent extending from your back, start off by flattening out your lower back to the floor, brace your core and contract your glutes, screw your feet into the ground and think about pushing through your mid-foot and heel. Focus on driving your hips towards the ceiling, not your back, and only go as far as your hips allow you to. Be sure to keep your knees hip width apart at all times.

Note from Erica: Another cue to ensure glute firing is “pull your belly button to your chin.” This is a great visual cue to put clients in a posterior pelvic tilt position. 

So there you have it, how to correct the top 5 butchered exercises. I’m sure we can all agree that these exercises are simple, but not easy, when done correctly. Give these a try the next time you’re at the gym and notice the difference and added challenge with these few adjustments.

– JT

johnnyteaJohnny Tea MS, NMT, FST, CSCS, PES

Strength Coach/ Manual Therapist

Website — www.jtmusculartherapy.com

Facebook — Johnny Tea

Instagram — @johnny_tea_

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