Ed. note: We asked former NFL player Marc Megna, who appears on the cover of this month's Muscle and Fitness magazine, to tell us which weightlifting mistakes he sees most often in the gym -- and how to fix them.
Mistake No. 1: Dead lifting with a rounded back.
We've all seen this one and it may be the most dangerous: Some weekend warrior loading the bar with a complete disregard for lumbar safety. Though this mistake is hard to watch, we can definitely learn from it.
Correction: The High-Pin Dead Lift is modified movement that can help progress you into increased range while keeping you in a safe position. The idea is to "bring the floor up" by moving the supporting pins up as a safety net for the bar. The key is to set your pins in a position that will allow you to maintain a flat back position. Keep in mind there are a several ways to dead lift but they all require you to be in a flat back position. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart. Your grip should one hand palm up (supinated) and one hand palm down (pronated).
Mistake No. 2: Full body curls.
If your intention is to get bigger biceps, you should probably work them. Swinging and using momentum will probably work your hips more than your biceps. Think about it like this: We approach weight training on a joint by joint basis. Muscles are joint managers that help us specifically work our target areas. Make sure you are working from your intended joints -- elbows in this case -- and leave the rest for another exercise. When performing a standing bicep curl, make sure your axis is the elbow and don't incorporate the infamous "fill body swing" to complete your curl.
Correction: Firstly, take your ego out of it and drop the weight to a realistic load that will help you maintain proper form. Second, pin your elbows in front of your body so your "moment arm" is not decreased by bringing your elbows behind your torso before you curl. This will help you get more work in the intended bicep area.
Mistake No. 3: Lateral raises with bent arms.
Recently I witnessed some dude performing lateral raises with 55 lbs. Anyone who has ever done this activity with controlled form knows what a 55-lb. lateral raise looks like. It strongly resembles a full body seizure. I've worked with extremely large pro athletes who use 10 to 15 lbs. They will tell you the weight isn't as important as the time and form.
Correction: Lock your elbows and keep your arms completely straight so the axis used is the joints within the shoulder. Perform reps with ZERO swing. This will guarantee you feel the intended lateral deltoid burn.
Mistake No. 4: Not maintaining a flat back position when performing a bent-over row.
All too often you see someone at the local gym performing a bent-over row with a rounded back. Not only does the position make it more challenging to perform the activity, but it also places a great deal of stress on the lower back and may lead to serious disc trouble.
Correction: Lay face down on an incline bench so you can properly engage the lower back and ensure a flat back position. This is a slight regression, but it will ensure safety and help you maintain proper form.