Are you ever trying to do an exercise and you notice your breathing is harder to maintain or completely stops? Chances are the exercise is too hard for you. When an exercise becomes too difficult for a person, they often recruit muscles and body parts that compensate to make it feel as if the routine was done correctly.
For instance, I will explain the leg raise exercise for your abdominal muscles. A leg raise is when you lie on your back and raise both legs off the ground and hold for 30 seconds or more. This is a difficult task for even the strongest of athletes to do correctly. The exercise should be done while the following three things are maintained: the neck should lie flat on the floor, the back of the spine should touch the floor and you should be breathing normally. To complete this exercise we usually tilt the neck up to look at the stomach or legs to “see progress” and put our hands behind our back “for comfort”, but these are cheat mechanisms that make the exercise easier. Instead of using just the core musculature which is designed to be strengthened, we use our neck flexors and lumbar paraspinals to “successfully complete” the exercise. A very good rule of thumb is when your breathing becomes irregular, the exercise is usually too tough. In this case, if the exercise is difficult only raise one leg at a time or lower the time of hold.
In other exercises, lower the weight or number of repetitions. Injuries occur when repetitive compensations are made and heightened so take caution. It is better to do an exercise correctly than how long or how many. Please don’t hesitate to ask if you are performing something correctly, we are all here to help you achieve your athletic goals (and if you have a body, you are an athlete).