img src="bu.gif" alt="Bullet"> Double leg lift with straight legs -- done while lying on your back. This exercise doesn't even work the abs. It works the thigh muscles that attach to and flex the hips (hip flexors). It also puts a terrible strain on the lower back.

A better way: Do reverse trunk curls. Lie on your back with your thighs pointing toward the ceiling and your knees bent at about a 90-degree angle. Now contract the abdominal muscles and lift the tailbone up off the floor about 3 inches, allowing your legs to come in toward your chest.

Bullet Standing toe touch -- bending over to touch your toes in order to stretch your hamstrings and lower back. This stretch puts a strain on the back muscles and is dangerous for anyone with lower back problems.

A safer way: Place your right heel on a step out in front of you and flex your right foot. Keep the right leg straight. Now bend slightly forward from the hips until you feel a tension (pull) in the back of your right leg. Support your body by placing your hands on your right thigh. Hold and breathe for 30 seconds. Repeat with the other leg.

Bullet Neck circles -- they do more harm than good. This exercise puts a lot of strain on the vertebrae and disks in the neck -- just the opposite of what you set out to do!

A better way: To relieve neck strain, slowly bend your head from side to side. Don't tilt the head forward as you do so. Follow this with a slow stretch forward bringing your chin down toward your chest. Never bend your head backward.

Q. Sometimes when I do a barbell curl I feel a burning on the inside of my arms right at the elbow. Do you know what causes this and is there something I can do about it?

A. It is probably caused by overstretching the connective tissue under the strain of curling a heavy weight. Barbell work forces you to keep your palms facing up during the lowering phase of the lift. Switch to dumbbells and do twisting curls (rotating wrists in toward your body on the downward phase).

To avoid hyperextending your elbow joints, be sure to keep your elbows slightly bent at the bottom of the movement.

Stephenie Karony is a certified health
and fitness instructor, a personal trainer and the author of
"Body Shaping with Free Weights." Send questions to her at
P.O. Box 262, Wailuku Hi. Her column appears on Wednesdays.

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