Technique, or the way you perform a particular exercise is often overlooked when exercising. Proper exercise technique is important for two simple reasons:

1) Your workouts are more effective if you workout the right way. Meaning, you will get much stronger in your 20 minute workout if you do things the proper way.

2) You will reduce the likelihood of getting hurt or injured. Many stray away from exercise because of the fear of injury. If technique is done correctly, you greatly reduce your risk.

Now that you know why technique is important, let’s look at six ways to improve yours:

1. Breath! Often my clients will hold their breath when lifting a weight. I’ve seen many red faces and puffy cheeks as a trainer, but this not healthy! You increase the pressure in your blood vessels, which can raise your blood pressure and make it more difficult for your heart to pump blood during your workouts. In addition, because you are holding your breath, you are depriving your brain and muscles of oxygen, that is obviously necessary for a good workout. The best way to remember breathing is to count while you workout.

2. Use slow movements. When you are new to resistance training, or learning a new exercise, it is best to use slow movements. Slow movements cause you to focus on the proper movements and breathing techniques associated with a particular exercise. Furthermore, slower movements have been shown to build muscles better than faster movements! So when in question, go slow. Four seconds up, four seconds down.

3. Wear weight lifting gloves. Weight lifting gloves may be the best investment you can make into your workout. A good pair of gloves will provide additional wrist support, and will protect the skin and bones in your hands from wear and tear injury over time. Gloves may be particularly helpful if you have arthritis. Go to your local sports store, try a pair and note your immediate improvement!

4. Always keep your back straight. There are very few exercises that you will do that will allow you to bend your back. Actually, those exercises are ones that specifically work your back muscles, like the Superman Exercise. Otherwise, your back needs to be straight! Keeping your back straight prevents injury and strengthens your core, or back and abdominal, muscles. So, keep your back straight unless proven otherwise!

5. Perform multiple limb exercises first. Start every workout with exercises that work both your upper and lower body, such as the Wood Chop. These exercises warm up most of the muscles in your body, which will make the more focused workouts more effective. Choose one or two to begin with, then focus on exercises like Two Arm Curls.

6. Drink water or Gatorade/Powerade. To keep it simple, aim to drink one to two 20 ounce bottles of water or Gatorade per hour when you workout. For low intensity exercise, one bottle of water per hour is fine. For an exercise that causes you to sweat lightly, drink two bottles of water. If your exercise is intense and you are sweating a lot, choose Gatorade to replace your electrolytes and to keep your blood glucose levels in healthy ranges. You will know that you are drinking enough if you have clear urine at the end of your workout. If not, increase your intake.