When it comes to learning how to move your body properly during your workouts, it’s all about picturing everyday activities, says Dan Goulet, owner of the top-performing Fitness Together in Medfield, Massachusetts.
According to Goulet, a certified strength and conditioning coach who has been training clients for more than a decade, proprioception — or the awareness of the position of the body in relation to space— is an important skill that everyone needs to work on in order to progress their fitness and performance. It takes consistency and good coaching to improve it.
Goulet says the best way to engage that mind/body connection is to picture your body doing things that you already recognize in the outside world. This is how he’s had success helping his clients throughout the years to truly feel the movements the way they should be felt.
We spoke to Goulet to get a few of his best external cues you can take back to your own workouts …
For proper spine alignment …
"Try not to look up, instead imagine you’re holding an apple under your chin.”
This cue helps people to keep their spine in alignment, especially during squats and deadlifts, when people tend to tilt their head up, which could lead to injuries.
For proper glute engagement …
"Drive the floor away with your feet and push from the floor up.”
This cue helps people to learn to actively use their glutes, quads and hamstrings when squatting and deadlifting, creating more power from their lower half.
For proper hip hinging …
"Push your hips back like you are trying to push a door open with your backside and keep that apple under your chin.”
This cue helps people to learn to drive from the hips properly during deadlifts, kettlebell swings and even cable pull-throughs, while keeping their back neutral, with only a slight bend in the knees.
For proper posture and shoulder alignment …
"Pinch your shoulder blades together like you have a pencil between them.”
This cue helps people to set up proper spinal alignment before any pushing or pulling movement, with the shoulders in the right place. Correct posture during upper-body movements is essential to effectively engage the primary muscles and to reduce the risk of injury.
For proper breathing mechanics …
"Exhale as though you’re trying to blow up a balloon.”
This cue helps people to take a quality deep breath and engage the core muscles for a strong base while performing various exercises.
When picturing your body performing common activities you can easily understand, you have a much better chance of executing moves with proper form — thus getting more from the exercise and avoiding injury.
Goulet says the more you do these movements and understand these everyday cues, the better your body and brain will recognize how you should feel when performing them. He recommends working with a personal trainer who will create a specific program for you, which will allow you to perfect the movements, adding difficulty with weight or increased range of motion as you continue to become stronger and more mobile.