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This may be a good time to check out our well-intentioned - but not so effective - exercise routines. The rewards of exercise are too plentiful to be diluted with erroneous actions. Many beginning exercisers, and even some veterans, have fitness misconceptions or use poor form, which can compromise their workouts, slowing down their progress. Repeatedly using improper form can lead to knee, shoulder and back injuries. - Five common exercise mistakes:

1. Skipping a warmup: Warming up is important whether you are getting ready for a specific sports activity or just preparing for a 10-minute workout.

A proper warmup will rev up your circulation gradually, increasing the blood flow, which will deliver more oxygen and nutrients to the working muscles, preparing you for the upcoming movements.

The average person should allow five to 10 minutes for warming up.

2. Treadmill slouch: The "slouch" occurs during one of the more popular cardio workouts in the gym . . . leaning forward with a rounded back on the treadmill.

Your spine is not receiving enough support in this position, and holding tightly onto the rails only encourages the slouching position. Standing upright, allowing arms to produce a natural movement by your sides, will help to improve balance and even burn more calories.

If you are dealing with balance concerns, and have a need to hold onto the rails for support, lower the intensity, maintain good posture and lightly rest your hands on the rails.

3. Lifting too much weight: When the weight is too heavy to lift with control, there is a tendency to "throw" the weight, which could lead to strains and injuries, with the back and shoulders being particularly vulnerable.

You should feel tension throughout the targeted muscle but no shaking, overstraining or discomfort in the joints.

4. Not lifting enough weight: Many people, particularly women, tend to select weight that is below the level of what is needed to stimulate the muscle.

The myth that women should use light weights to prevent them from becoming big and bulky may make some women hesitate to increase their weight intensity. However, most women do not have enough testosterone to become concerned with that issue.

If you don't gradually and sensibly increase the weight strength, you will not stimulate the muscles and bones to become stronger.

It is important to note that you do not use the same weight level for all muscle groups; they will require varying intensities.

5. Lifting too fast: This may seem easier because you are using momentum, however, by performing slow and controlled movements, you will be using muscle power and getting a much more effective and safe workout.

Going too fast not only can increase blood pressure, but also can increase the risk for joint injuries. The standard strength-training workouts suggest taking two or three seconds for the lift and three or four seconds for the release.

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Your Move

Carol Holland, 75, demonstrates the proper way to perform several exercises.

Squats are a multijoint exercise for lower body that targets hips, thighs and gluteals. They also strengthen knees and ankles.

Standing with feet shoulder-width apart, contract abdominals and slowly bend knees as if you were sitting in a chair, pushing hips to the back. Looking forward will help to keep your chest lifted. As thighs become near parallel to the floor, pause, then slowly return to standing position. Beginners, do not go that low.

Common mistakes: Allowing knees to move beyond toes or move inward in a "knock-kneed" position and over-arching or rounding the back.

Lat pulldown strengthens backs and, to a lesser degree, shoulders and biceps.

Begin by adjusting thigh pads until thighs fit under pad comfortably. Standing, hold bar with an overhand grip, then sit on seat, placing thighs under pad. Begin with arms in a straight upward position. Leaning back slightly from hips, pull bar downward to top of chest, pause, then slowly return bar upward. When you have completed your repetitions, stand up and return bar to original position.

Common mistakes: Rocking back and forth, pulling bar behind neck, leaning too far back, bending wrists, moving too fast and jerking elbows and shoulders and bringing bar too low on chest. Long-term misuse of these movements can cause shoulder issues such as impingement and rotator cuff injuries.

Lateral raisetargets the center of shoulder muscles. Holding weights, palms facing inward (thumbs up), stand tall with feet shoulder-width apart. Contracting abdominals and without locking elbows, raise arms until weights are just below shoulders, pause, then slowly lower arms.

Common mistakes: Arching back or rocking back and forth in an effort to lift the weight, lifting from the elbows instead of the shoulders and raising weights above the shoulders.

Stationary bike riding provides a good low-impact cardiovascular workout, however, you need to make a seat adjustment to avoid knee injuries. To adjust seat height, place ball of foot over pedal and check that you have a slight bend in the knee.

Common mistakes: If the seat is too high you could over-strain the knee joint. If the seat is too low, you will not be able to fully extend the leg, irritating the front of the knee.