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6 Cues to Get a Better & Safer Workout

Chelsea Dellinger

There are a number of cues you can use during your current workout to amp it up and gain better results.  In each exercise, try concentrating on 1-2 cue words or images to guide safe and effective form. To grow your collection of workout cues, seek out a personal trainer or attend a group fitness class.  A regular exercise routine matched with mindfulness is that much more satisfying in its process and completion.

1. Brace your core

Engaging your core means tightening your abdominal and lower back muscles.  Next time you cough, feel that squeeze in your core. Try bracing your core in abdominal exercises like planks or push-ups.  

2. Breathe

While it may seem obvious to breathe, we sometimes hold our breath or take shallow breaths when working out.  As you focus on your breath during exercise, inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Inhale for any pulling exercises and exhale for any pushing exercises.  Let your breath be an anchor in your movements.

3. Keep a flat back

Your back has both a natural arched and rounded curvature.  Whether standing or down on all fours, think neutral spine. You want to try and eliminate any excessive curvature in your lower back.  Take advantage of any mirrors to watch your form. To find neutral spine, get on all fours and play around with pushing your stomach toward the ceiling and dropping your stomach towards the floor.  Then, find the middle ground between them to maintain the natural curves of your spine. For any extreme rounding of the back, practice poofing out your chest. For any extreme arching of the back, practice tucking hips/tailbone under shoulders.

4. Land softly

Protect your joints with the same quiet and soft movements of a mouse. After jumping, your toes touch the floor first, roll onto the balls of your feet, and lower your feet until heels meet the ground.  It will help to have slight bend in your knees and hips upon landing, too. Exercises that you can practice landing softly include squat jumps, broad jumps, lunge jumps, and side-to-side jumps.

5. Pinch your shoulder blades.

A quick way to straighten up your posture is to imagine holding a tennis ball between your shoulder blades.  To pull the shoulder blades together draw those elbows back. Pulling exercises like renegade rows and reverse flies favor a slight squeeze in the shoulder blades.

6. Resist gravity

Increase your muscle activation with longer time under tension.  Try lowering weights slowly towards the floor over 3-4 seconds. Remember that time you tried to carry all those groceries home in one trip?  As you resist gravity, feel those muscles tightening. Practice to control the resistance using dumbbell, barbell, and body weight exercises.