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.
That's why we asked John Romaniello, trainer, author and founder of Roman Fitness Systems to show us what's what when it comes to strength training.
He'll be helping us tackle some of the most common mistakes we all make while building muscle, plus tips and tricks for perfect form. This week, we're conquering the crunch. Experts agree that crunches are generally not the fastest path to flat abs, and we'll be perfecting some other ab exercises in the coming weeks. But we still see plenty of people doing crunches -- and doing them wrong.
The Faux Pas: The biggest problem is curving your spine, Romaniello tells The Huffington Post, which puts strain on the neck and back. Look familiar? Poor crunches put the back into an eerily similar position as sitting hunched over in a desk chair!
The Fix: "Instead of trying to bring the shoulders to the knees, think about bringing them straight up towards the ceiling," Romaniello says. "This will engage the abs without compromising the spine." Lift toward the ceiling until your shoulder blades clear the ground, then slowly lower your torso back down.
Now it's your turn. Evaluate your crunch form, then try the tips above. Tell us how it goes in the comments below, and be sure to check back over the following weeks to fix your squats, planks and more.
Check out more in our Fix Your Form series below:
Photos by Damon Dahlen, AOLMissed It? You can still participate in the 30-Day Summer Shape Up: