Correcting My Own Form: 4 Common Exercise Mistakes


I love learning about health and fitness and over the past six or seven years have braodened my knowledge of the topic considerably. I teach group fitness and feel confident guiding others, but it’s an ongoing constant improvement process. I still don’t consider myself an expert, but back when I first started the blog I was even farther from it. I was just a fitness enthusiast who was sharing the workouts she did for fun. I made no claims to be an authority and it’s a good thing because looking back on my old posts … girrrrrrl no.

Every one in a while an old workout post will surface and while most of them are fine, there are a few pictures that make me totally cringe. I thought it’d be fun (and useful) today to call myself out a little. Fitness Trainer Nicole is going to correct the improper form of Fitness Enthusiast Nicole. 

5 Common Exercise Mistakes (That I’ve Made)

1. Low Back Arch in Plank


from 8-Minute Abs 2.0

I did a whole post on common planking form mistakes, and I definitely used to be guilty of letting my low back arch down towards the ground. And I have to make an embarrassing confession about it:

I used to do it in pictures on the blog because I thought it made my butt look good.

GAHHHNOOOOOFJDKSLFKEJLKEG OEDJFSKLD:S I’m the worst. Well, I was the worst when I was 23 years old.

There’s a natural curvature to the low spine and planking isn’t about eliminating that; it’s about tightening through the core to prevent it from being over-exaggerated. plank-correct-form

Not as bootylicious, but definitely harder on the abs and easier on the low back!

2. Knee ahead of Toes


from Chair Interval Workout

When you’re in a squat or lunge position with the heel on the floor, your knee shouldn’t jut out farther than the toes. You want the support of the ankle joint underneath it so that the knee isn’t in a strained position. There are exceptions to this rule, but in general think knees behind the big toe.

I’ve definitely seen worse than in the above picture, but this would be safer for the knee:


Notice the weight is in my front heel and the knee is stacked over the ankle.

3. Kettlebell Swings Higher Than The Chest


from No-Jump Quiet Workout

I know in CrossFit they swing overhead and if you have a CF coach instructing you how to do that then great, but with traditional kettlebell swings, you only bring the bell to chest height. I don’t do CrossFit so I stick with the standard and when I use kettlebells in group classes tell students to do the same. If the kettlebell is easily coming up to head height like it is in the above picture, you’re probably using a weight that’s too light for you!

My kettlebell is in storage for the summer so here’s the correct form from a previous blog post:

20-minute kettlebell workout -- broken up into four sections, each 4:30 long

The top of the swing is chest height.

4. Craning Neck during Push Ups


from AMRAP Quickies Workout

Your neck is part of your spine. When in push up position, we typically know to hold our core in a neutral position (as if we were planking) but don’t always apply that logic to our necks. You should be looking at the floor a few inches in front of your hands; not at the ceiling.

The problem with this, in addition to it being uncomfortable for your neck, is that it sets off a chain of misalignment through the rest of the body. Notice in the above picture how craning my neck is causing my back to then arch. Besides the fact that I’m cracking up (Joe walked in on me taking self-timer push up pictures haha), here’s a much better push up:


Notice how shifting my gaze downward a few inches helps me keep the core engaged, removing that sag from the low back. I’m also not rolling forward through my feet.

Fellow instructors/trainers–what are some of the common form errors you see with clients? Everyone–what are the form corrections you’ve made for yourself?


P.S. I genuinely appreciate when people call out form errors in the comments of my posts so please never be afraid to correct me! It’s helpful for me and everyone reading the blog. Seeing myself in pictures throughout the years has helped me improve immensely and constructive criticism isn’t “trolling.” 🙂

Stair Pyramid Workout

Stair Pyramid Workout - bodyweight exercises and stair sprints

Heads up: If you’re local, make sure to read through to the bottom of this post–I’m giving away a bib to run the Falmouth Road Race!

This workout was a no-brainer–I have to take advantage of the stairs in my apartment while I’m here! No equipment is needed and you can get creative–if you don’t have a staircase, you could go outside and replace the stair sprints with hill sprints and just use a bench for the other exercises.

Stair Pyramid Workout

You’ll complete 10 reps of each exercise, then 9, then 8, and so on, finishing with one rep of each exercise. Go through the pyramid circuit as quickly as you can without sacrificing proper form.

Stair Pyramid Workout - bodyweight exercises and stair sprints

Stair Hop Burpees | Start standing about a foot and a half away from the bottom of your stairs. From here, squat down, bringing your hands to the floor. Hop your feet back out into a plank. Hop them back up towards your hands, releasing your hands from the floor and coming upright into a low squat position. From here, hop both feet onto the bottom step, landing in a low squat and quickly jump back down to the floor in your starting position. That’s one rep.

Stair Step Taps (RIGHT) | Start with your right foot on the second step and your left foot on the floor. Squat down, sliding your hips back as you bend your knees. Your goal is to stay this low on the right side throughout the entire exercise. From this starting position, shift your bodyweight into that right heel and tap your left foot to the first step, back down to the floor, to the second step, and back down to the floor. That combo is one rep.


Stair Step Taps (LEFT)

Stair Push Ups | This is just a traditional push up but with your feet on a step. The higher the step, the harder the push up.

Stair Sprints | Sprint up, jog down. That’s one rep. On the even-rep rounds (10, 8, 6, 4, 2), take the stairs two at a time on the way up. On the odd-rep rounds (9, 7, 5, 3, 1), take the stairs one at a time as you run up.


Stair Workout - wearing Booty by Brabants leggings & Athleta tank

WEARING | tank c/o Athleta (old – shop current selection here) // Booty by Brabants leggings // sneakers c/o PUMA

Enjoy your day! I went to see Guns ‘N Roses last night at Gillette Stadium so I’m off to a slow start–totally worth it though! I rarely go to Patriots games because Gillette is such a pain to get to but to see Slash and Axl in person … hell yes I’ll sit in traffic until 1AM.

And before I end this post, I’ve got an exciting giveaway for local readers!

Falmouth Road Race Giveaway


One lucky reader will win:

Enter using the widget below. Winner will be randomly selected this Friday.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
I’ve run the Falmouth Road Race once before and it’s so fun! Great excuse to get down to the Cape for the weekend (as if you need one). 😉

Good luck!


Standing Core Workout

Standing Core Workout - this 20-minute workout will challenge your core stability with standing ab exercises

I’m using a medicine ball for today’s workout, but you could use a dumbbell or other weighted object if you don’t have one. I’m calling this a core workout, but your arms and legs will be feeling it as well–especially if you use a heavier weight. There are two bodyweight exercises thrown into the circuit purposely to give your arms a little breather in the event upper body fatigue is hindering the core work.

While I wouldn’t say this workout is “easy” (the first two sets especially are tough!), I’d consider it easier than some of the other core workouts I’ve shared. It’s a good one if you’re a beginner (just chose a light med ball or even just bodyweight) or have mobility impairments preventing you from comfortably getting down to the floor for crunches and other supine ab exercises.

20-Minute Standing Core Workout

Equipment I Used:

  • Medicine ball (I shot the workout with a 6-lb med ball because it’s all I have at home but would have liked to challenge myself with a 10-lb–next time!)

The structure of this workout is a time pyramid. Each time you go through the circuit you’ll stay on the exercises for less time. Here’s the breakdown:

60 seconds each exercise
60 seconds rest
45 seconds each exercise
45 seconds rest
30 seconds each exercise
30 seconds rest
15 seconds each exercise

Try not to rest in between exercises. Only rest as specified above (after a full set). In total, this workout will take you 20 minutes to complete. The goal is to complete as many reps of the exercise as possible in the specified time interval. That being said, never sacrifice proper form for the sake of speed!

As with all workouts, make sure to warm up beforehand. Always listen to your body and modify when needed.

Standing Core Workout - this 20-minute workout will challenge your core stability with standing ab exercises (follow-along video included!)

Marching Front Chop | Start standing with arms straight, med ball held overhead. Keeping your arms straight, you’re going to chop the ball down in front of you as you lift one knee up towards it (as if you were going to spike the ball off your knee). Raise the ball back overhead as you lower the foot back to the floor and repeat on the other side.

Crossbody Woodchop RIGHT | You want a wide stance for this one with both feet pointing forward. With the lower body, I want you to think side lunge; with the upper body think of tracing a diagonal line with the medicine ball.. Start with the legs straight, med ball held in straight arms up and overhead to the left (you want your torso twisted so that you’re facing the left side of the room). Keeping the arms straight, chop the med ball down towards your right foot as you bend into the right knee (remember, think side lunge) and twist to face the right side of the floor. Reverse the movement back to the starting position.

Crossbody Woodchop LEFT

Standing Bicycle Crunch | Start standing with feet a little wider than hip’s width apart, chest open, fingertips behind the ears and elbows out wide. From this starting position, you’re going to crunch the right elbow down and across your body to touch the opposite knee, which you’ll bend and lift up towards it, squeezing your low abs. Don’t worry if you can’t make physical contact between the knee and elbow; focus on pulling your core in tight and just get them as close as possible. Return to starting position and repeat to the other side.

Torso Twist to Front Chop in Lunge RIGHT | Start in a lunge position with your right foot forward; ball of the left foot planted behind you. Feet should be hip’s width apart (you’re not walking on a tight rope–you want a stable base!). If joint mobility allows, you want to find a 90-degree bend with the front knee. Hold the med ball at chest height, arms straight in front of you. Keeping the arms straight, twist towards the right side of the room so that the ball twists over the front leg. Twist back to center and then chop the ball down towards your back knee, crunching through the core to lower it. Rise back to starting position and repeat.

Torso Twist to Front Chop in Lunge LEFT

Sumo Squat Obliques Crunches | You’ll be in a wide sumo squat position the entire time with the lower body. You want a wide squat stance with your toes pointing outward; knees track in line with the toes. Chest open, have your fingertips lightly behind your head or hovering by the ears, elbows bent out wide to the side. From here, dip your right elbow towards your right knee, contracting the right side obliques. Lift upright and over to the left. As you crunch down side to side, think of staying in a single plane of motion; don’t lean forward as you dip to the side. So picture your torso is sandwiched between two walls, one against your back and one against your chest. Stay between the walls.

Side note: Every time I do this exercise I can’t help singing “I’m a little teapot short and stout…” in my head. Please tell me someone else’s mind goes to that when doing side bend motions?? 🙂

Standing Core Workout - this 20-minute workout will challenge your core stability with standing ab exercises

WEARING | leggings c/o PRISM Sport (30% off with code ACTPERRY) // shoes c/o Puma // bra c/o Forever 21 (old but shop current selection here)

It is such a game changer living in a space that’s well lit enough to shoot videos!! I’m sad I’m only here for the summer but plan on taking full advantage of that conveniently placed concrete wall next to the windows. Let’s see how many workouts I can shoot before August 31st… 😉