fitness resolutions will do you no good if they lead you to
visit the likes of Hooman Melamed.
orthopedic spine surgeon, Melamed sees the downside of efforts
to get strong and fit. Exercising the wrong way can put a
person out of commission for a long time, he says.
recent morning, Melamed met us at the Spectrum gym in Santa
Monica, Calif., and demonstrated the right way to do some
common exercises and use some popular equipment, and he talked
about the risks of getting it wrong.
director of scoliosis at Marina del Rey Hospital, says he
often sees people whose injuries could have been avoided with
good form or more conservative workouts. And injuries often
are cumulative, meaning the more you do an exercise the wrong
way, the greater the injury can be, he says.
general, movements should be controlled and steady, Melamed
says. That doesnít mean you canít move rapidly. In fact,
Melamed endorses that as a way to make an exercise do double
duty building muscles and increasing the heart rate.
Melamed says inhaling and exhaling with the natural rhythm of
the exercises will help keep you in control.
these are simple adjustments, and they might seem unimportant,
Melamed notes, but by using proper form, you train your brain,
making it more likely youíll avoid injury when playing
sports and not concentrating on form.
of us are not trying to be Mr. Olympia. You donít need crazy
heavy weights, and we need our bodies forever," he says.
a popular machine in many gyms, perhaps because itís easy to
read while working out. But that, Melamed says, can also cause
problems, not the least of which is that you donít get all
the calorie-burning, heart-pumping benefits if youíre more
concerned with your book than your thighs.
on a book can take concentration away from form. And to read,
some people tend to jut their chins forward into a "swan
neck" position that can cause pinched nerves in the neck.
also not a good idea to lean forward on the machine and rest
weight on the handrails ó tempting, especially as you get
tired. What you should aim for is an upright position, Melamed
besides Santa doesnít want a flat belly? For many of us, it
takes effort, but the wrong effort wonít help the abs and
could cause injury. First, donít strain your neck by jerking
upward with your hands clasped behind your neck. That movement
can also torque the back and tear tissue, Melamed says. An
alternative is to cross your arms so the hands are touching
the opposite shoulders.
approach, he says, would be to have a partner stabilize your
feet while you crunch up with control, working the muscles of
the abdomen, not the back or neck. A third possibility is to
place your hands under your buttocks, draw your navel toward
your spine and then lift your bent legs, raising and lowering
the hips from the floor.
it more challenging, and sudden moves less likely, hold a
light medicine ball between your feet.
says people tend to arch their back on weight benches, more so
as they tire or as they increase the weight. That can lead to
a torn annulus, the tissue that protects the disks in the
spine. Most of the time those tears can heal themselves, but
it can take a year, he says. "How do I know? Because I
did it too."
to prevent that is to raise the legs into tabletop position,
keeping your back flat on the bench.
bad move is bouncing the barbell off the chest, which also
occurs more as people tire. If you canít move smoothly and
canít complete at least 15 repetitions, you might be trying
to lift too much weight, Melamed says.
weightlifting can cause sciatic pain, bulging disks and
ligament sprains, he says.
recommends doing weight work at the end of a workout, when you
are already somewhat tired and likely to use lighter weights.
"Itís about having good form, and also you are warmed
up so youíre less likely to get hurt."
before they start this exercise, many people risk injury when
they lift a weight off the rack, Melamed says. People are not
thinking about form at that point, and thatís a mistake,
because a careless bend can hurt the middle or lower back. You
should stand facing the weight rack, squat if the weight is
below chest level and bring it close to your chest to start an
recommends doing biceps curls with one foot forward, knees
slightly bent. That posture relaxes the back and ensures thereís
no pressure on it. Start by holding the weights so the
knuckles face outward, and turn your palms up as you raise the
weights. Elbows remain still, as if someone were holding them
at your sides. And as with other moves, no jerking motions.
metal weights with handles have become popular in gyms, and
they provide a great workout ó used properly. Melamed says
he sees patients who get hurt when they swing the kettle bell
too forcefully or too high, or when they try to hold too much
weight too far away from their torsos. Again, the risk is
tearing the tissue around the disks, as well as torn muscles
and herniated disks.
common exercises require jumping with the kettle bell. Itís
important to land on the balls of the feet ó "like a
cat" ó and with the knees behind the toes to avoid knee
injuries such as tearing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL),
he says. Try to make the jumps the same each time, and engage
the abdomen and buttock muscles, he says.