PBS host Stephanie Mansour, of "Step It Up With Steph," demonstrates proper form for common workout moves.
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Virtual workouts have become increasingly popular due to Covid-19 restrictions. Online sessions allow you to bring your workout with you wherever you are, a convenience hitting the gym can’t offer. However, without an in-person trainer or fitness instructor by your side, it can be easy to misinterpret the proper form for a new move.

In many group classes or workouts, the instructor keeps his or her eye on you and yells out corrections or modifications. Or maybe you’re used to fitness equipment, like an elliptical or an ab machine, that keeps your form somewhat honest.

When it comes to virtual workouts, though, all you’ve got is you and your body without much to keep you in check. To enhance success in the world of virtual fitness, there are a few factors to take into consideration. First, make sure you are immersed in the workout. Those who exercise with a virtual coach are more motivated and present throughout their workout than those who work out on their own, studies have shown.

Dedication to improving yourself also helps. Intrinsic motivation, which involves doing something without knowledge of a reward, improves performance and efficiency levels, according to research. If you remain motivated throughout the virtual workout, you’ll be more likely to double-check each move for accuracy.

Even so, there are some common exercises that can all too easily be done with incorrect form and lead to unnecessary pain, improper muscle build and even injury. So what are some key mistakes to look out for? Read on to find out.


What to avoid: Maintaining proper form while in lunge position can be tricky. Many people don’t realize that they aren’t creating a full 90-degree angle with their legs. It’s also common to lean forward while lunging, allowing your knee to surpass your forward-facing foot.

Avoid: Here the bend of each leg lacks a 90-degree angle of a proper lunge.

Get it right: To avoid these common mistakes, look at your form in a full-length mirror and make sure you are creating as close to a 90-degree angle as possible while keeping your knee aligned with your foot.

Correct form: Here Mansour demonstrates both legs bent in a 90-degree angle for a proper lunge.

Bicep curl

What to avoid: This move seems simple – and it is – but it’s more about form than the amount of weight being lifted. So many of my clients do them incorrectly without realizing. When performing this move without a trainer critiquing your form, it’s easy to slouch your back backward while lifting. Some people will move their hips, bringing the weights all the way up to touch their shoulders and allowing their elbows to leave their sides.

Avoid: Bringing the weights above your shoulders defeats the purpose of a bicep curl.

Get it right: This move is much simpler than that. If you’re doing a bicep curl correctly, only your hands and forearms should be in motion. First, stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart while you look straight ahead. Hold your dumbbells straight down, near your thighs. While keeping your elbows at your sides, lift the weights with just your forearms. Make sure to tighten your biceps and feel the burn. Finally, release and repeat.

Correct form: For a bicep curl, keep your elbows at your side. Lift with forearms only.


What to avoid: Doing planks is a common exercise, but it’s hard to master, especially without a trainer telling you to lift your core or adjust your arm position. Because planks require self-discipline while alone, they frequently aren’t performed correctly, which could hurt your progress. I see a lot of people slouching their stomachs or arching their backs, which could ultimately lead to injury.

Avoid: Do not arch your back when lifting into a plank.

Get it right: The mistakes I see the most, however, are easy to fix. First, make sure you’re horizontally in the air with the length of your body lifted off the floor. Press your hands or forearms into the floor as you raise your body using your toes. With your heels in the air, squeeze your core and glutes for the most effective burn. Keep the shoulders over the wrists, and pull the navel in toward the spine to keep the back flat.

Correct form: Lift your core and keep your body in a strong, straight line for a proper plank.

READ MORE: You can do this total-body workout anywhere – no equipment needed

Jump squats

What to avoid: When performing a jump squat, many people don’t fully start from a squatting position. Instead, they tend to use just their ankles to jump up. People also tend to land with their legs straight or on the flats of their feet. This can cause injury and even instant pain upon landing.

Avoid: Don't jump if you're not yet fully in a squatting position.

Get it right: Instead, lower down into the squat position with your hips and knees pushed back and then land with a soft bend in your knees.

Correct form: Push your hips and knees back to get in a squat stance; land your jump with knees softly bent.

The new year is a perfect time to start prioritizing your health, and virtual workouts are a great way to start. With the challenge of not having an in-person trainer, however, be mindful to adhere to proper form and vigilant about tackling mistakes as they arise. Next time you’re performing your virtual workout, keep these tips in mind. If you remain motivated to improve, you’ll find yourself becoming more aware of your own mistakes.

Stephanie Mansour, host of “Step It Up With Steph” on PBS, is a health and wellness journalist and a consultant and weight loss coach for women.