Feel the burn, not the pain

Physical fitness expert demonstrates proper form for common exercises

ST. LOUIS – As assistant professor of physical therapy at St. Louis University, Mark Reinking knows a thing or two about exercise.

However, even he’s baffled by some of the things he sees people do at the gym. Not only are they putting themselves at risk for injury, but Reinking can’t figure out the intended purpose of some of the exercises.

Listed below are two common, risky exercises many students partake in today – and a safer alternative to try for better results. Some of these moves can be done safely under the guidance of an expert, but they pose risks for those who haven’t been properly trained.


The goal: Strengthen abdominal muscles

Why it’s bad: Clasping your hands behind your head puts stress on the neck. Doing sit-ups with your legs flat on the floor and sitting all

the way up until your chest touches your legs is also bad because it

puts stress on the lower back.

Safe alternative: Try a crunch: Cross your arms over your chest, bend your knees and keep your head and shoulders in the neutral position. Lift you upper body until it’s just off the ground.


The goal: Stretch the hamstrings.

Why it’s bad: It stresses the lower back and lumbar spine. It also doesn’t effectively stretch the hamstring, and if you have short hamstrings, you’re using other joints that you shouldn’t be using to accomplish the motion. Rotating the torso toward one leg or the other is even more risky.

Safe alternatives: Try standing near a flight of stairs or other sturdy object and put the foot of the leg you want stretched on a step. Keeping the spine neutral, bend at the hip rather than the lower back,

lowering your chest slowly toward your knee.

Cynthia Billhartz Gregorian

St. Louis Post-Dispatch