Master the Move: Common Cues

By Micaela Young |

Want to make sure your workouts are safe and effective? Then you’ll want to prioritize good form during exercise.

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When it comes to getting the most benefit from your workouts, good form during exercise is essential. It helps reduce your risk of injury and see better results.

But it’s not always easy to know how to position your body. And as you work up a sweat and start to get tired, it can be hard to think about proper form. That’s why SilverSneakers instructors use cues, such as “engage your core,” to remind you to set up for exercises correctly and stay aligned as you move.

In this video, SilverSneakers Master Trainer Andi breaks down five common cues you might hear in class and what they mean. “Keep focused on great form throughout your exercises to not only have them be effective, but be safe and have fun,” she says.

How to Use This Activity

You’ll only need yourself and some open floor space. You can simply press play on the video and follow along or check out the exercise pointers below.

Either way, it’s okay if the cues don’t click the first time. It takes practice to build awareness of your own body and figure out which positions work best for you.

As always, safety is key. The exercises here may be different or more advanced than those you’ll experience in a SilverSneakers class. If you have a chronic condition, an injury, or balance issues, talk to your doctor about how you can exercise safely.

Common Cue #1: Engage Your Core

This cue means to draw your belly button in toward your spine, which will create mild tension through your abdominal muscles. You can also gently squeeze your glutes to engage more of your midsection. Try to maintain this engagement as you move.

Why we do this: To protect your back and make movement easier. As a bonus, it will also tighten your abs, Andi says.

Common Cue #2: Shoulders Back and Down

Simply roll your shoulders up toward your ears, draw them back behind you, and then bring them down. Feel the engagement in your upper back. You may even feel a slight stretch in your chest.

Why we do this: To maintain good posture and keep the upper body engaged. “What happens sometimes during exercise when we get focused or we begin to get fatigued is that our shoulders start creeping up to our ears or we begin rounding forward,” Andi says.

Common Cue #3: Maintain a Neutral Spine

This cue can seem tricky, but the goal is to keep the natural curve of your spine throughout the movement.

Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart, and roll your shoulders back and down. Gently tuck your tailbone, and squeeze your glutes. Think about maintaining this neutral spine position as you stay lengthened throughout the exercise.

Why we do this: To put your back and neck under the least amount of stress and strain as possible. “We want you to watch that you’re not rounding over or that you’re not hyperextending through your spine,” says Andi.

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Common Cue #4: Knees Relaxed or Soft

This simply means to relax the tension in your legs. Bend your knees slightly, and avoid locking them out.

Why we do this: To take stress off your joints and keep the muscles in your legs ready for movement.

Common Cue #5: Widen Your Stance

This cue can be used when you’re seated or standing. First, come into a neutral stance so that your feet are a comfortable distance apart—roughly hip- or shoulder-width apart, Andi explains. To widen your stance, “heel toe” your feet out until they are just outside of your hips.

Why we do this: To improve stability. Often, the wider your stance, the more stable you’ll be during a movement.

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