Photo by Lucas Chilczuk

Have You Been Doing These Essential Exercises All Wrong?

Chances are, you've done planks, push-ups, squats, and crunches for so long, you could whip them out in your sleep. But there's a fine—and critical—line between executing these moves and executing them properly. Dance Spirit turned to Anna Acciarino, PT, DPT, ATC, from Manhattan Physio Group in NYC, for a breakdown of the subtle yet significant mistakes you might be making.

Photos by Lucas Chilczuk. Modeled by Brittany Shinay.



Your lower back and hips dip, creating a sagging arch.

Your hips and buttocks rise up and out of line with your spine.


Your pelvis is tucked under and your glutes are contracted.

Your navel feels like it's being pulled in towards your spine.

Your chin is slightly tucked and your gaze is directed one foot in front of your hands, not at the floor.

Your spine is aligned, your back is flat, and your core is engaged.

Hold a plank for 30 seconds, and work up towards 1 minute.



Your back and hips dip.

Your hips are lower than your chest in the downward motion.

Your arms are more than shoulder-width apart.


Your starting position is the same as a properly executed plank (see exercise 1).

Your shoulder blades are flat and resting against your rib cage.

Your hands are shoulder-width apart.

Your spine stays aligned for the entire push-up.

Perform 20 reps.



Your chin is tucked.

Your feet come up and off the ground when you curl.

You pull yourself up by your neck.

You race through each crunch.


Your chin is pointed up towards the ceiling.

Your hands are gently clasped behind your head, with your elbows out towards either side.

Your navel feels like it's being drawn in towards your spine.

Your head leads the crunch, followed by your shoulders and shoulder blades.

You inhale deeply, then exhale as you begin to curl up.

Perform 20 reps, holding each crunch for 3–5 seconds.



Your knees go past your feet.

You drop your stomach and lean your upper body forward as you squat.

You don't hinge from your hips, relying instead on your knees and quads.

You don't distribute your weight into your heels.


Your arms are straight in front of you.

Your knees are aligned with your toes as you squat.

You hinge from your hips, keeping your upper body and spine upright as you sink into the squat.

You push through your heels to activate your glutes, and extend your knees and hips to stand up.

Perform 10–20 reps.

A version of this story appeared in the April 2018 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "Fitness Faux Pas."

Latest Posts

Project 21 dancers (from left) Selena Hamilton, Gracyn French, and Dyllan Blackburn (Photo by Quinn Wharton; hair and makeup throughout by Angela Huff for Mark Edward Inc.)

How Project 21 Is Shaping the Next Generation of Competition-Dance Standouts

"I wish I had a better story about the name," says Molly Long, founder of the Orange County, CA–based dance studio Project 21. In truth, it's a play on the fact that she was born on the twenty-first of August, and 21 is her favorite number. "I was away on a teaching tour, the audition announcement was going live on Instagram the next day, and I desperately needed a name. Project 21 was just the least cheesy of the options I thought of!"

The fact that fans might expect the name to have some profound meaning speaks to the near-mythic status Project 21 has achieved on the competition and convention scene since its founding in 2014. Long's dancers are all wholly individual, yet jell seamlessly as a group, and are consistently snagging top prizes everywhere on the circuit. Each season brings a slew of new accolades, high-caliber faculty, and legions of devoted followers.

The industry has taken notice of the studio's unique ethos. "Molly gets through to her dancers in a special way, and they have this incomparable level of commitment to their craft as a result," says dancer and choreographer Billy Bell, who's worked closely with Long and her dancers. "That's what sets them apart—it's like a little dose of magic."

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Dear Katie: What Can I Do to Get More Flexible?

In our "Dear Katie" series, Miami City Ballet soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email for a chance to be featured!

Dear Katie,

I'm a strong dancer, but I don't have a lot of flexibility. I stretch every day, but it feels like I'm getting nowhere. What can I do to get more flexible?


Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks

Enter the Cover Model Search