How to Exercise the Right Way: 10 Steps

Try to follow these 10 form guidelines, no matter the exercise.

How to Exercise the Right Way: 10 Steps

To get the results you want from a workout, holding your body in a proper position is just as important as the workout itself. Doing exercises correctly will help you:

  • Burn fat
  • Reduce stress
  • Improve health
  • Decrease your waist size

And you can do it all without bulking up to the size of a Miami condo.

No matter what moves you're doing, from a push-up to a lunge, try to follow these 10 form guidelines. (If possible, use a full-length mirror to check the position of your body.)

  1. Look out at eye level or above to spare your neck and keep you from rolling your shoulders forward.
  2. Keep your face relaxed and tension free.
  3. Relax your shoulders and lift up your chest.
  4. Pretend the top of your head is being pulled up by a string to elongate your spine and keep you from rolling forward.
  5. Count the reps for each exercise out loud; counting helps you remember to breathe continuously. (Many people hold their breath while doing strength training.)
  6. Keep your abs tight to support your lower back. (Practice sucking in every time you enter a car, bus, train, plane, elevator, escalator, everywhere—that way, it becomes automatic.)
  7. Keep your knees slightly bent, so you don't lock them.
  8. Make sure you can (if you want to) always see your hands when doing shoulder exercises.
  9. Keep moving in between exercises to keep your heart rate up, or move directly to the next exercise. If you can't hold a conversation, you're exercising too hard. If you can talk a blue streak, you may not be going hard enough.
  10. As you get fitter, go longer rather than harder with cardio exercises and stronger with weight exercises—that is, do more repetitions. But it's more important to follow perfect form and do fewer reps than to do a lot of repetitions with form that's sloppier than spaghetti in a high chair.

Ready to begin? All right. Build your 20-minute workout today!

From YOU: The Owner's Manual, by RealAge experts Michael F. Roizen, MD, and Mehmet C. Oz, MD​

Medically reviewed in December 2019.

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