If you don't know your way around a weight room, heading to the gym can be intimidating -- and even dangerous. But paying attention to a few simple rules of proper technique can make you slimmer, stronger and healthier all over.
We spent an afternoon at Equinox with trainer and manager Rebecca Woll, learning the ins and outs of some of the most popular strength-training machines.
In the coming weeks, we'll be sharing Woll's thoughts on the biggest mistakes we all make while building muscle, plus her tips and tricks for better form. This week, we're perfecting the chest press.
The Faux Pas: Set up is key when it comes to this multi-joint movement, says Woll. Often, the handles are above or below the chest, which forces you to use other muscles than the ones you're targeting, she says. She also sees people sitting with their head off the bench. "The second that your head comes off you're using your traps, and all that does is build body-builder necks," she says.
The Fix: First off, make sure the handles are right at your chest so that you are actually using those chest muscles, by adjusting the height of the seat, says Woll. Then, tilt the elbows up a little and bring the shoulders and head back. "Make sure the back of your head, the middle of your back and your hips are on the bench," says Woll. "That's going to allow you to press straight out, keeping your wrists nice and aligned," she says. Resist the temptation to shrug those shoulders forward. "As long as you send those shoulders down, you can feel it right in your lats," she says.
Tell us how it goes in the comments below, and be sure to check back over the following weeks to fix your form on the row machine, the seated fly and more.
Check out more in our Fix Your Form series below:
Photos by Damon Dahlen, AOL
For more on fitness and exercise, click here.
HuffPost Lifestyle is a daily newsletter that will make you happier and healthier — one email at a time. Learn more