- Keep your joints in alignment. Essential to maintaining proper form is keeping your body in good alignment throughout the exercise or stretch. Putting yourself in an awkward position will promote injury. Keep your feet, knees, and hips aligned. In a standing position, keep your weight distributed equally in your hips, keep your hips aligned above your knees, keep your knees aligned above your heels, and keep your toes facing in the direction of your knees. Avoid allowing your weight to rest on the balls of your feet. When you are in a side-lying position, keep your hips stacked one above the other so that they form a line that is perpendicular to the floor. If you are down on all fours, keep your elbows aligned below your shoulders; keep your knees aligned beneath your hips; and keep your head, neck, and torso aligned so they form a straight line from head to tailbone.
- Avoid extreme flexion or extension of a joint. If an exercise calls for flexing (bending) the knee while in a standing position, for example, do not allow the knee to bend so far that it moves in front of the toes; bend it so that it is aligned above the heel. If you are extending (straightening) your arm or leg, do not extend it to the point of locking the elbow or knee joint; keep the joint soft, or some what relaxed.
- Protect your back. Support your spine when changing positions. If you need to bend over, bend from the hips rather than from the waist and place your hands on your thighs to support your back. If you are doing an exercise while lying on your back, do not raise your upper body so far that you pull your lower back off the floor. Avoid excessive arching of the back.
- Keep your abdominals tight and your pelvis tucked under. When you stand with your abdominals slack and your pelvis not tucked, the top of the pelvis tends to tilt forward. This allows your stomach to hang forward and causes your back to arch excessively. Concentrate on pulling the abdominals in tight, as if you were trying to touch your belly button to your spine. Keep the top of the pelvis pointing upward so your tailbone points directly down to the floor.
- Keep your spine lifted. When performing standing or sitting exercises, keep your upper body lifted. Imagine that a string, attached from the ceiling to the top of your head, is lifting your head, neck, and shoulders upward. Keep your shoulders relaxed.
- Focus on controlled movements. Concentrate on pressing through the exercise using your muscles rather than allowing momentum or gravity to do the work. If an exercise such as a leg lift calls for "resisting" a movement, concentrate on contracting the muscles and pulling the leg down rather than allowing it to simply fall back into the starting position. Do each movement slowly. Never bounce during an exercise or stretch, since this may cause injury.
- Start out slow and gradually increase your range of motion. Moving a joint through its full range of motion means moving as far as you can without causing discomfort and without moving out of alignment. For example, in a side-lying exercise in which you are pressing the leg up and out from the hip joint, press up only as far as you can without moving your hips out of alignment; if your hips start to tilt, you're moving too far. Gradually, your range of motion will increase.
- Remember to breathe. Do not hold your breath when performing the exercises; this can increase blood pressure. Instead, inhale between each repetition and exhale as you perform the movement.
For more great exercises to improve your strength and fitness, check these out: