When you walk onto a YMCA wellness floor, you’ll see all kinds of equipment. Some of our pieces may look familiar to you —like the yoga mats in the corner, the weights on the rack, or the row of treadmills. There may be other machines that you’ve never seen before and have no idea how to use. But you have to start somewhere, right?
Keke Jackson, Wellness Director at Brentwood Family YMCA, is more than familiar with the equipment on his floor. We caught up with Keke to talk about some of the best and worst techniques that he sees on the floor, from exercises that you can do at home to specific machines that you may be using backwards (yes, really!).
THE WORST: Not using the equipment correctly
“The most common thing I’ll see is someone using a machine in a way it’s not supposed to be used. If you’re on a back extension machine where you should be extending your hips but your arms are doing all the work, you’ve turned it into a rowing exercise. Or, if you’re doing hip abduction exercises and you’ve turned your body to face the machine, you’re working a different muscle group.” If you're using a machine backwards, you're not only using the wrong group of muscles—you may also be introducing those muscles to injury.
THE BEST: Asking how to use an unfamiliar machine
If you’re not sure about a machine, just ask a staff member. You can also sign up for quick, free support services to get yourself situated. “Sign up for an equipment orientation,” Keke says. “We show new members how to use most of the equipment that they see on the wellness floor from a cardio and strength perspective. When it comes to anything outside of these lines, we can introduce you to personal training, a personalized exercise program, or our ActivTrax kiosk—which gives you an explanation [and video representation] of how to do an exercise.” (Hint: You’ll find ActivTrax kiosks at the Brentwood and Donelson-Hermitage YMCAs!)
THE WORST: Doing push-ups, planks, lunges, crunches and squats improperly
“It’s very important that we’re using the right techniques,” Keke explains. “The biggest thing is safety. When you are not doing an exercise the right way, it introduces your body to a greater chance of injury. And, of course, technique is very important to that. If a member isn’t using the right technique for an exercise, it’d be neglectful of us not to step in and help out. It’s part of doing our job.”
THE BEST: Following along to see how the exercise should be done
Start with arms fully extended and lower down to create a 90-degree angle at your elbow, maintaining a straight back. For push-ups from the knees, your back should still be straight and feet should be off the ground. Watch Keke demonstrate.
Like push-ups, the goal is to maintain a straight back and a strong core. Keep your neck straight with your back instead of letting it hang towards the ground. Watch Keke demonstrate.
One of the most common mistakes Keke sees is leaving the back leg extended. A proper lunge should create an "L" in both your front and back legs.
With a proper crunch, you'll crunch about halfway up, using your core to lift rather than your arms. Don't tuck in your neck; leave it long and straight with your back as you crunch.
An incorrect squat shifts weight onto the toes, resulting in your heels coming off the floor. Keep your back straight, and sit straight down instead of bending over. If you need some assistance, use your Y's TRX bands or a barre for balance support.
THE WORST: Being afraid to try something new
“Everybody at some point had to start,” Keke says. “Some things can be a little intimidating. But, if you love to do it, you have to start somewhere. You might be a kid who loves to play basketball or you might be an adult who loves gardening—you had to start that hobby at some point and you didn’t know exactly what to do. The only way to make the uncomfortable comfortable is to ask and seek help, because we all need it. And that’s what [the YMCA staff] is here for.”
Don't stop there! Watch Keke demonstrate more of the right moves, and try one of our 30-minute workouts and put your polished techniques to use.