Chances are if you’ve taken a group exercise class or trained with a personal trainer, you’ve heard a lot of exercise technique cues to keep you moving with good alignment.  You know you’re not supposed to let your knees go past your toes during squats or lunges.  And there’s the ever present “abs engaged” cue to activate the deep abdominal muscles in your core.  I’d like to add a few equally important, but less commonly heard cues to the list.  Here are my top 5 exercise technique cues.

  1. Tuck Your Tailbone — If you’ve ever felt low back pain during a plank or push up, it’s likely you need to tuck your tailbone.  This is a subtle move that helps to activate the abdominals and protect the low back from excessive arching.
    To Practice: Lay on your stomach.  Press your tailbone into the floor.  You should feel your gluteal muscles contract when you do this.
  2. Flat Back — Most weight lifting exercises need to be performed with a straight spine.  The more you round your spine, the more pressure you put on your low back.  Can you say ouch?  For the majority of my clients, I simply place my hand on the middle of their back where it’s rounding and ask them to flatten it.  In some cases, I say “poof out your chest” which brings down any rounding in the thoracic spine.
    To Practice:Get on all fours.  Set up sideways to a mirror if you can.  Place a dowel rod or broomstick on your spine.  Make sure the stick has three points of contact: the back of your head, in between your shoulder blades, and tailbone.

    Use a stick to monitor your spinal alignment.

  3. Narrow Stance — The wider your feet, the more stable your base.  If you have terrible balance, standing wider may be desirable.  However, I find that many females will stand much wider than necessary.
    To Practice: The cue, “stand with feet shoulder distance apart” applies here.  Shoulder distance is not measured by the outsides of your shoulders though.  Stand in front of a mirror and identify where your shoulder joint moves.  Line your feet up with the inside edge of your shoulder joint.
  4. Land Softly — For any jumping exercise, you should barely be able to hear your feet hit the floor.  Let your entire leg absorb the impact, not just your ankles and knees.
    To Practice: Simply focus on making as little foot fall sound as possible the next time you’re doing squat jumps, broad jumps, lunge jumps, burpees, etc.
  5. Chin Up or Chin Down — Neck alignment is important for spinal health just like maintaining a flat back.  Chin to chest or hyper-extending your neck puts tremendous pressure on your cervical vertebrae.
    To Practice: The stick example above works well for optimally aligning your neck as well.  Just make sure the back of your head is touching the stick.  In standing position, work on looking straight ahead rather than looking at your feet.

What technique cues have you heard that have helped you stay in proper alignment?  Please share in the comment box below!