Everyone wants to be the guy who gets through reps at lightning speed and is the first a HIIT class. But if you’re taking shortcuts during your workout, the only person you’re cheating is yourself. Don’t believe us? Take a look at your arms: you’re probably not bulking up as fast as you could be. You also might be practicing bad form, which can easily put you at risk of injury.
If you are taking shortcuts during your workouts, don’t worry — you’re not the only one. In fact, there are a few workout mistakes that people tend to make in an attempt to get through their workout fast or with minimal effort. We asked a few trainers to tell us about the most common workout shortcuts, so you know what to avoid in the future and can start seeing some serious gains.
Not Fully Extending
If you’re not lowering your chest fully to the ground during push-ups, you’re taking the easy way out. “Men want to appear powerful and often quickly descend and lower their pelvis to the floor instead of their chest, which is technically cheating,” says Rebecca Gahan, C.P.T, the owner and founder of Kick@55 Fitness, a HIIT studio in Chicago.
Instead, “your hands should be positioned outside of your shoulders, with your body in plank position. Contract your arms and descend your chest to ground,” she says.
Half-Assing Your Squat Jumps
“People often don’t descend down enough into the squat (to really activate those glutes and thighs) and simply jump up too quickly in attempts to power through them,” Gahan says. Instead, go deep down in the squat, and ascend into a standing position as you jump into the air, she says.
Going Too Fast Or Too Slow
Certain moves require slowing down for you to truly reap those muscle-firing rewards. For instance, for stationary lunges, “many clients pulse quickly up and down as a way to get through a set,” says Gahan. But that doesn’t let them really activate those muscles in the legs and strengthen them over time.
Instead, “legs should be positioned in an upside-down L, 90-degree angle. You should descend until the knee almost touches the ground, and then ascend to a full standing position,” she says. It’s okay if it’s a bit slower as long as your form is good.
On the other hand, moves like mountain climbers, which are aimed at cardio than building strength, should be done slightly faster. “With mountain climbers, clients often bring the knee to mid-chest and slow down the movement. But this is problematic, as it barely works the core and minimises cardio benefit,” Gahan says. Instead, “knees should shoot up to the chin, so that it barely misses. And, you should switch legs in one swift motion, with 2 reps per second, ideally,” she adds.
Slouching Or Arching Your Back
If you’re arching, slouching, or just putting pressure on your back, you’re not only jeopardizing your progress, but you’re also at risk for injury, explains Todd Nief, owner and founder of South Loop Strength & Conditioning.
This is especially common with planks. “The plank is one of the better movements for developing anterior core strength, which can counterbalance a tendency toward excessive extension and arching of the lower back. However, many people allow their bodies to sag and arch, which is completely counterproductive.” The key to a good plank is holding your back “long and straight,” even if it’s for a shorter period of time.
This article originally appeared on Men’s Health