Most Poorly Performed Exercises

3 Minute Read

An HFE tutor with a group of smiling fitness students
An HFE tutor with a group of smiling fitness students

New research by sports equipment retailer Sweatband has revealed the top ten exercises that are mostly commonly carried out incorrectly by gym goers and fitness enthusiasts.

942 fitness professionals from around the UK were polled as part of Sweatband’s research, which forms part of a larger ongoing study into the exercise habits of Britons. The study asked respondents what exercises they most commonly see performed incorrectly. They were asked to select their top five from a list of potential options.

Not only does this mean people are failing to get the most out of their workout, but it can also lead to serious injuries

Once each fitness professional had chosen their top five picks, they were then asked to identify the most common errors they had seen being carried out. The Sweatband team were then able to compile their top ten list, which makes for very interesting reading.

The top ten exercises that are performed incorrectly and the most common mistakes are:

  1. Bicep curls (64%) – the most common error was simply trying to lift too heavy a weight. This takes the focus from the bicep and onto the shoulders.
  2. Crunches (61%) – too much strain on the neck was the most quoted problem here.
  3. Chest press (58%) – failing to keep the shoulders back and squeezing the chest muscles together when bringing the dumbbells in was the most frequent mistake.
  4. Squats (57%) – poor posture putting too much strain on the lower back and not enough emphasis on the legs was the biggest issue for people attempting squats.
  5. Lat pull down (55%) – the bar should be pulled to the front of the body and to level with the chin, not behind the neck as many incorrectly do.
  6. The plank (53%) – when attempting this one, too often the client’s body will sag, according to the professionals polled. The body needs to be kept straight, with taught abdominal muscles and glutes to avoid stress on the lower back.
  7. Bent over rows (36%) – clients were prone to hunching their back forward whilst straining against too heavy a weight.
  8. Leg press (47%) – people often go ‘too deep’ with the danger of adding too much stress on the lower back. They were also prone to locking their legs when they come back up.
  9. Leg lifts (43%) – the most common error here was the fact that clients think they are working their abs when they’re actually working their hip flexors.
  10. Lunges (39%) – too many people put their knee over the toe, with the pressure on the ball of their foot.

Fitness professionals were also asked what they felt were the reasons behind the incorrect exercises. Reasons selected were: people were simply ‘trying to do too much’ (44%), ‘trying to impress their peers (32%), while 39% blamed ‘a lack of education’ when it came to workouts at the gym.

“You see all kinds of techniques undertaken when exercising and these techniques are often incorrect,” says Maz Darvish, CEO of Sweatband. “Not only does this mean people are failing to get the most out of their workout, but it can also lead to serious injuries. It’s important for gym goers to ask one of the instructors if they are unsure about anything at all.”


Lee Cain

Lee Cain

Writer, Tutor and Experienced Fitness Professional

Lee has over 20 years’ experience in the health and fitness industry and has performed multiple roles, including physical training instructor, strength and conditioning coach, lecturer, writer, tutor, assessor and verifier for vocational qualifications. He has a passion for all things exercise, with his key specialisms being strength and performance-based training.

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