Top 5 Exercises You’re Probably Doing Wrong

10.23.2018 | Forge Performance

 Top 5 Exercises You’re Probably Doing Wrong

We’re not going to lie. As Coaches who started off as Personal Trainers in a commercial gym, we’ve seen a lot of crazy stuff. We’ve also seen a lot of fundamental exercises performed incorrectly or inefficiently. In this post we’re going to list our top 5 exercises we see people performing incorrectly. These exercises include:

  1. Squat
  2. Deadlift
  3. Push-Up
  4. Planks
  5. and Rowing Exercises

We’ll also dive into depth as to what to look for in your technique, and what cues we use to help pattern the movement. Doing so will allow you to get more benefit from the movement and prevent injury.

The Squat

The squat is referred to as the king of all exercises, and we agree. It targets more muscle groups than just about any other exercise, and is a fundamental movement for athletic development and daily life.

Most Common Issues


Everything in the lower body starts at the feet. If the feet aren’t set correctly, expect your entire movement to be thrown off.


Don’t allow the feet to collapse or toes to curl. Create a strong foundation for the foot by creating three points of pressure at the base of the big toe, the heel, and the mid outside of the foot.

Cues: Grab the floor with your feet, and drive the feet outwardly.


Once the feet are set, the knees can track over the feet properly if we provide the right tension.

While keeping the foot braced into the floor, drive the knee outwardly against the tension in your foot. Be sure not to allow the foot to lose tension in any of the three points.

Cues: Open your hips on the downward movement of the squat, and spread the floor on the way up.


The last piece of the puzzle is keeping the back in a straight line as to not put excessive tension on the lower back, hips, or knees during the squat.

Keep the ribs tied to the hips for the entire movement, trying not to lift the chest and flare the ribs through the movement.

Cues: Pull your body down and back into the squat on the way down, and push your shoulders up to the ceiling on the way up.

The Deadlift

Most often, people avoid the deadlift, and we can’t say that we blame them. It can be a complicated movement if you don’t truly understand how to position yourself appropriately. If you’re not ready to deadlift, we highly recommend checking out our video on progressing the hip hinge.

Most Common Issues

Feet and Knees – Same as the Squat (see above)


The deadlift is still a pushing movement, like the squat. The difference is the deadlift puts the weight out in front of our body, recruiting more effort from the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back. Getting into the proper hip position ensures we engage these muscles efficiently and effectively.

Cues: Push your hips down and back, and pull your shoulders up and back over the heels.


Like the squat, how we position the back matters. Too much movement in either direction can effect the back.

Cues: Pull the bar to your body, and pull your chest away from the bar.

The Push-Up

The push-up is one of our staple exercises. No upper body exercise is as beneficial for building full body strength and foundation for movement as the push-up. To see how to work toward strengthening the push-up, check out our article on perfect push-ups.

Most Common Issues

Wrist Position

We highly recommend performing push-ups on a bar or set of dumbbells. Having a neutral wrist position allows the hand and shoulder to communicate effectively.


Most people think pressing exercises like the push-up, bench press, and dumbbell press are primarily for the chest. Ideally, horizontal pressing should be for the triceps. How we initiate the movement for these exercises becomes vital, especially for the push-up.

Cues: Break at the elbows first, and pull the elbows down and back keeping them in line with the wrists


How the shoulders move during the push-up will dictate whether or not it is a pain free experience. The goal is to keep the shoulders down out of the neck and ears, and not allow them to collapse too quickly

Cues: Using the cue for the elbows, pull the body to the bar/floor as if you are performing a row.


Most often, we see push-ups being performed with sagging hips, creating an arch in the lower back. Keep the glutes squeezed tight and chest up.

Cues: Make your body as long as possible, driving your head and feet as far away from each other as possible, push your chest away from the bar, and squeeze the butt tucking the hips to be in line with the ribs.


Having a stable plank is the foundation for just about all of the movements we’ve listed so far. Making sure you use them appropriately will make creating tension in the core to protect the back for the aforementioned exercises much easier. There are two ways to perform the plank, a high position and a low position.

Most Common Issues

Collapsed Shoulders

The plank is a great exercise for teaching proper bracing of the anterior core, as well as shoulder stability. Having proper shoulder stability will make creating tension in the push-up and deadlift much easier to facilitate.

Cues: Drive your hands down and out on the ground, and push your sternum away from the floor.

Sagging Hips

Like the push-ups, hip position is everything. Knowing the proper hip position for the plank will set up all of your compound exercises like the squat, deadlift, and push-up.

Cues: Make your body as long as possible, driving your head and feet as far away from each other as possible, and squeeze the butt tucking the hips to be in line with the ribs.

Horizontal Rows

Horizontal rows are the best exercise for developing the strength in the lats to support movement in the squat, deadlift, and push-up. Too often, we see people overemphasizing the elbows and shrugging the shoulders.

Most Common Issues


Far too often, people shrug their way through a rowing movement, utilizing the traps to bring the shoulder blades back against the rib cage. Ideally, we want to incorporate the lats and rhomboids in the movement as much as we can. The involvement of the traps in the movement will vary depending on the grip.

Cues: For neutral positions, drive the elbows down and back toward the hips. For mid and high row positions, drive the elbows out and back.

Upper Back

The other big issue we see is the start position of the movement. We don’t want our upper back to either be too flexed or too extended. Too far in either position will disrupt the natural rhythm of the shoulder blades against the rib cage.

Cues: Round your back as much as you can, then extend your back as much as you can. Once you have to two far points established, find your middle position.

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