The top ten corrective exercise cues that we give daily, while not exhaustive because there are dozens of cues for every exercise, are essential for just about every exercise possible.
These ten cues may place the body into an optimal position so that the client receives the best possible outcome, both for safety and effectiveness.
Check these cues out below and begin applying this information today. As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.
Top Ten Corrective Exercise Cues
Head and neck a natural extension of your spine. Avoid letting the head drop down or hyperextending your cervical spine during most exercises. When you are performing pushups, squatting or sitting on the bike, remember this cue.
Shoulders relaxed (pack the shoulders downward), rotated back and down away from the ears (i.e. stabilize the scapula-thoracic segment of the spine into a neutral position so that it may work as a stabilizer or mobilizer). Consider pushups/pull-ups—if the shoulders are elevated, neither the lats nor the pectoral muscles are able to engage properly.
Rib cage lifted, navel pulled toward the spine and the pelvic floor pulled up and inward with the buttocks pulled together. Think of pushups, planks and bridges—bracing the body to prevent lumbar hyperextension.
Knees relaxed. In the majority of exercises you want to avoid hyperextending any joint, particularly the knee joint as this creates a change in the position of the pelvis, placing undue stress into the posterior knee joint and the lumbar spine. Consider any standing lower body exercise or just standing to perform an upper body exercise.
Slow and controlled. Most muscular strength training exercises are performed slowly and must be controlled to ensure both safety and effectiveness. Swinging, using momentum or throwing the body into a movement, particularly when utilizing external resistance may lead to injury.
Upon completion of an exercise, if you could perform one/two more repetitions during muscular strength training or continue for another few seconds when performing a high intensity interval, then you are probably not training intensely enough. Choose external resistance which enables you to perform the required repetitions, achieving momentary muscle failure by the final one/two repetitions and becoming breathless during HIIT by the final seconds of the exertion interval.
Stabilize the shoulder joint. This applies specifically to exercises such as triceps kickbacks and biceps curls. If the shoulder joint is moving while performing these exercises, the benefits diminish considerably and the shoulder may be placed in a vulnerable position leading to injury.
Hinge from the hip joint. This applies to lunges, squats, and deadlifts. Avoid dropping the torso giving the illusion that you are lunging, squatting or deadlifting lower than you are in reality. Additionally, hinging from the hips may help to prevent unwanted stress to the lumbar spine.
Body weight into the heels. Again, this applies to lunges when the body weight needs to be placed into the front heel and squats when the body weight is predominately in both heels. Ask—can I wiggle my front toes when lunging and both sets of toes when squatting?
Breathe rhythmically. In general, during muscular strength training, inhale through the nose and exhale upon the exertion phase of the exercise. An easy way to remember is to exhale during the pushing or pulling phase.