This is the time of year we tend to look back and review. That being said, let’s look back on some popular exercises in the gym and dial in our form.

Back Squats/Trap Bar Squat

  • Getting set up
  • For a back squat, make sure the bar is centered on upper trap muscles and not pressed into the back of your neck. For the Trap Bar Make sure your hands are centered on the handles to allow for a balanced lift.
  • The back squat starts in the tall/top (extended) position and you want to keep your abdominal muscles braced (tense) throughout the entire lift. The Trap Bar squat starts on the bent/bottom (flexed) position.

Performing the lift

  • From the tall/top position, start by hinging at the hips followed by bending your knees.
  • Keep your feet flat distributing weight throughout the foot. Note: you want your feet to match, meaning that if one must be slightly toed out then do that for both.
  • As you lower yourself down keep your chin tucked to maintain a neutral spine position – this does not mean look straight down at the floor.
  • From the bent/bottom position press through your feet with a slight bias in your heel.
  • Come all the way up and squeeze your abs and glutes to finish. Your hips should be under you not sitting back behind you.

Tempo push-ups

  • Start with your feet close but not touching, hands can be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Contract your abs, quads, and glutes to maintain position and to protect your low back from dipping.
  • Performing the exercise by lowering yourself under control towards the floor, leading with your chest/sternum. Avoid leading with your forehead.
  • Return to the start position by pressing through your palms until you’ve extended your arms. Avoid forcibly locking out your elbows.
  • The tempo should be done at a 1-one thousand, 2-one thousand, etc pace.


  • Starting on your back, arms out by your sides, leg up so you can lead with your heels towards the ceiling
  • Pressing through your hands to stabilize, lift your legs up so your hips are off the ground – again leading with your heels.
  • Slowly lower your hips back down to the floor while keeping your legs up for the next rep.


  • While grip position varies (overhand, underhand, neutral grip) the execution of the exercise keeps true.
  • Once you’ve established your grip make sure you’re set in the bottom position with some muscular tension – avoiding “dead hanging” for injury prevention.
  • While avoiding swinging, pull yourself you as far as you can while keeping the emphasis in the muscles of the back – pulling your shoulder blades down and back. Common pitfalls are reaching with the chin and rounding the back so that the muscles of the chest actually assist with the lift.
  • Lower yourself back down to the start position under control avoiding “crashing” down at the bottom.

Dumbbell squat to overhead press

  • Select a weight that is appropriate for overhead presses.
  • With the dumbbells at your side and starting from the tall/top position of a squat, start into your squat by initiating at the hips then the knees. Keep the dumbbells at your side and avoid letting your knees dive in because of the dumbbells.
  • Maintain a neutral spine or “flat back” position through the lift.
  • As you come out of the bent/bottom position start to go into a bicep curl of the dumbbells. Once you’ve returned to the tall/top position of the squat the dumbbells should now be by your shoulders.
  • Keep your abs tight to avoid arching your low back in the overhead press and begin pressing vertically. Dumbbell position may vary based on one’s ability to press overhead. I tell my athletes to end in an overhand or neutral (palms facing one another) position based on comfort.
  • Lower the dumbbells back down to your side under control and get ready to repeat.

Slow mountain climbers

  • Starting in the top position of a push-up. Feet should be close but not touching with arms extended and abs, quads, and glutes all tight.
  • Press firmly down through one foot while you start into the opposite legs doing a knee punch. Only punch the knee as far as you can while keeping a flat back – avoid rounding the back.
  • Slowly return the leg back and setting the foot on the ground to press down. Repeat the knee punch on the opposite leg.

Sets and reps will vary based on what your training goals are: Strength 1-6 reps, hypertrophy (size) 8-12 reps, endurance 15+ reps particularly with the exercises.

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Eric Telly – Sports Performance Coach at Landow Performance