Ever hear the same four cues in your fitness class and never understand what they actually mean? Well, as an instructor, it’s important to know the class understand what I’m explaining and why the cues help you maximize your results, while keeping you safe. Here are four cues you’ll hear in your next class and what they actually mean.

“Abs tight”

Best way to think of this is tension on your core. Less sucking it in, more bracing your abs. As an instructor, I cue clients by telling them this, “if you were to get punched in the stomach, and before I punched, you tensed up, hold onto that tension.”

“Shoulders Down”

Your trainer is always saying it, but you’re just not getting it. Well think of it this way: pretend your shoulders and your ears hate each other, keep them away from one another. It’s as if your shoulders are being pulled in the opposite direction of your ears. How do you do that? Stand tall, chest opens up, squeezing your shoulder blades together, activating your lats, and bringing your shoulders down. Like a switch, turn everything on and keep it all on throughout the exercises.

“Knees Out”

This is mostly used when squatting and/or lunging. When you’re squatting you want to actively push your knees out, this way the knees track your big toes. Same thing when you get into a lunge, the knee of the front leg shouldn’t cave in. Sometimes we forget about this cue when we’re in these positions. The best way to practice is to put a resistance band on your legs and focus on pushing the knees out, fighting the resistance of the band.

“Neck Aligned With Your Spine”

Last but certainly not the least, neck hyperextension. As an instructor, I find this is a cue I use a lot. We all like to stare at ourselves in the mirror, but we can’t be doing this all the time in the gym. There are times when it’s appropriate and then there are times that it could put a strain on our necks.

For example, when in a deadlift position, you’re actively pushing your butt back.  What is easily forgotten is that while the back remains flat, you should be lengthening with the crown of your head. Meaning, your neck is aligned with your spine. Hence, you are not checking yourself out in a mirror, your chin is tucked as you hinge forward. If the weight is down you look down, if the weight is up, you look up.

Making minor adjustments in form and technique, can create the ultimate difference. In the gym, we must move mindfully through exercise as to avoid any injury. We must exercise our minds as well as our bodies. Now, the next time you hear one of these cues, you’ll know exactly what to do.