You’re at the top of your game during your favorite group fitness class when the instructor asks you to engage your glutes, reach your heart forward, or breathe into a body part. Whoa! Can you seriously breathe into that particular body part? You suddenly feel like you need an anatomy lesson. Allow me to demystify some of the most common cues you’ll hear in class so that you can maintain your flow and enjoy all the benefits the class has to offer.
“Brace your core”
What it means: Do this: breathe in and tighten up your belly like you’re about to get punched in the gut. You’ve just braced your core. You can also pretend that you are coughing to feel the bracing, which is like a corset wrapped around your midsection.
Why it’s important: A solid core is essential for safe movement, especially when lifting weights. When the core is braced, the spine is structurally supported and at less risk for injury. This also allows the joints to move freely, limiting any compensatory movements due to instability in your core.
“Hinge at your hips”
What it means: Draw your hips back and place your weight mainly in your glutes.
Why it’s important: Learning how to hip hinge is essential for movements not only in the gym, but also in life. Initiating movement by hinging at the hips takes the load off the spine and knees, reducing the risk of injury to those areas.
“Engage your glutes”
What it means: Imagine that you have $1,000 bill between your buttocks that you don’t want to lose. You’d fire up your glutes to hold on to it!
Why it’s important: Many of us tend to sit for much of the day, which results in weak glutes and tight hip flexors. As a result, our glutes get “lazy.” By squeezing your glutes during exercise, you’ll have better spinal and core stability, and alignment.
“Lead with your heart”
What it means: Imagine that there’s a string attached to your chest pulling it up towards the ceiling while you also tuck your shoulders into your back pockets.
Why it’s important: Many of us tend to round our shoulders and slump forward. This habitual poor posture can wreak havoc in our bodies. By lifting your heart and drawing back your shoulders, you recreate the natural “S-shaped” curve in your spine, leading to a healthier back and deeper breathing.
“Close your ribs”
What it means: Purse your lips and imagine blowing air into a balloon. Notice how your ribs move in and down automatically?
Why it’s important: Opening up your ribs and arching your low back can place too much pressure on the lumbar spine, leading to back pain. When you close your ribs, you automatically brace your core, resulting in greater strength and power, as well as safety.
“Keep a soft bend in your knees (or elbows)”
What it means: Avoid hyper-extending or locking out your joints.
Why it’s important: If you lock your joints, especially while lifting weights, you place too much stress on them, which can increase the risk of injury.