OH-Blog Logo
Two people performing push-ups for exercise

Feeling Pain When Exercising? Here Are Some Ways to Help

Feel the burn? Yes.

Feel the pain? No.

When you’re exercising, you should feel challenged. Your muscles getting tired and having a burning sensation is normal. What’s not normal is experiencing pain while building muscles and torching calories.

Never fear, our exercise physiologists from OhioHealth’s McConnell Heart Health Center are here to troubleshoot some common mistakes they see when performing different body-weight exercises. And bonus! They’re sharing ways to fix them, too.


Common Mistakes When Doing Lunges:

  • Your front knee collapses in when lunging
  • Uneven distribution of your body weight
  • Your front knee goes over your toes


Consequences of Incorrect Lunges:

  • Knee pain
  • Back pain
  • Training incorrect muscles/straining other muscles

Lunge Modifications/Corrections:

  • Assisted lunges: With this move, you use no weight and hold onto a wall or chair for balance. This allows you to focus on your form without other distractions.
  • Smaller range of motion: In this move, you only lower down halfway, which may help you keep good form without putting pressure on the knees.
  • Elevated front foot: Placing the front foot on a step or small platform may be another modification to try if regular lunges make your knees ache.



Common Mistakes When Doing Push-Ups:

  • Your lower back sags due to poor core strength
  • You let your head drop and your chin tuck in toward your chest causing your neck to lose alignment with your spine
  • Your elbows flare out to the side as you lower yourself with your hands out of place


Consequences of Incorrect Push-Ups:

  • Back pain
  • Strained neck
  • Additional stress on your shoulders

Push-Up Modifications/Corrections:

  • Incline push-ups: Place your hands on an elevated surface to focus on bracing your core.
  • Look at the ground, not your body: Keep your neck completely neutral with your spine, and your eyes focused on the ground below – this will help prevent you from tucking your chin.
  • Watch your hands: Check your form by making sure the heel of each palm is directly under each shoulder, just slightly wider than chest-width apart. As you lower into the push-up position make sure to keep your elbows pointing back so they don’t flare out.


Shoulder Press

Common Mistakes When Doing Shoulder Press:

  • You jerk the weight up
  • You don’t keep your head and neck neutral
  • You have a decreased range of motion


Consequences of Incorrect Shoulder Press:

  • Shoulder pain
  • Rotator cuff injuries
  • Cervical spine injuries/pain

Shoulder Press Modifications/Corrections:

  • Keep your elbows rigid without locking them at the top of the movement.
  • Press your back against the back support without flattening out the curve in your back.
  • Bring your arms and elbows down, keeping your elbow joints in line with your shoulders.
  • If the bench is tall enough, keep your head against the backrestDon’t wiggle or squirm in an effort to press the weights up and maintain core bracing


Dead Bug

Common Mistakes When Doing Dead Bug:

  • Arching or twisting your lower back
  • You move quickly with little control
  • You focus on moving your limbs rather than on stabilizing your core


Consequences of Incorrect Dead Bug form:

  • Back pain
  • Hip flexor strain
  • Poor results for core toning and strengthening

Dead Bug Modifications/Corrections:

  • The dead bug exercise is actually an anti-extension exercise, not a hip and shoulder movement exercise. You should focus on preventing any movement at the waist, despite the shifting pull as you move your limbs. Move slowly so you can focus on stabilization rather than on the movement.
  • Your fully extended leg is very heavy and can pull your back up into an arched position if your core isn’t strong enough. Try taking a bent leg down to tap the heel on the floor, rather than extending the leg out as you lower it.
  • If you are new to the idea of an anti-movement exercise, you might want to start with a version where you can work on your focus:
  1. Try leaving your arms on the mat next to your hips and your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Begin by pulling your belly button down toward your spine without flattening your back fully to the mat.
  3. Now hold that tightness to prevent any weight shifting, arching or twisting through your hips, ribs and back.
  4. Slowly lift one foot from the floor until your lower leg is parallel to the floor and slowly lower it back down – all while focusing on holding the rest of your body still.
  5. Work toward 10 to 15 repetitions alternating sides, holding the core stable the entire time.


As you can see, if you’re not familiar with the proper way to perform certain exercises, you could be putting yourself in pain and possibly causing injury. That’s why we recommend working with someone trained in proper form before you start working out solo.

Curious to learn more? Find our exercise experts at McConnell Heart Health Center or Grant Health and Fitness Center.