- Some basic training cues can make your workout more effective.
- A personal trainer told Insider how to better target the right muscles with form modification.
- One of the tips was to visualize your hands as hooks during pull-ups, to better engage the back.
Sometimes the smallest tweaks can be the difference between making gains in your fitness routine and slumping or even injuring yourself, according to a personal trainer. Stephanie Tsingas.
The right form is Tsengas’ first priority when working with the client. A particular cue can make sure that a person’s form is solid and that they engage their muscles effectively.
She said each person will need specific training based on genetics, muscular imbalances, and fitness background. However, these cues can be used as a general guide to improving exercise form.
Spread the floor when you squat
the squatting is an exercise Tsengas said she really pays clients to master before adding a barbell weight. She said many people don’t know how to properly activate their glutes for the exercise, which can make the movement less effective and cause injury.
If someone is new to the exercise, she said she always starts it with a box squat where she places a box behind them for their butt to touch when they come down. The box squat forces the person to bring their hips back and raise their knees to a 90-degree angle, which she said is necessary to isolate the butt.
Imagine that you’re pushing the floor apart as you rise, pushing your knees out to the sides, Tsingas said. She said you should mainly drive from the heel and the midsection of your foot.
Tighten your pelvis while squatting and Romanian deadlift
For both squatting and Romanian deadlifts (RDL), Tsengas said it’s important to tuck Your pelvis is forward under your torso. She said: Imagine you’re pulling your belly button up toward your spine to do that.
This may be hard to imagine, she said, but it will be the difference between activating your glutes and hamstrings and hyper-stretching your lower back. The latter, she said, can easily lead to infection
Tsengas also recommends her clients not to pinch their glutes or lock their knees at the top of these movements, she said, because that can also overextend the lower back.
An RDL is different from a squat, Tsingas said, in that you maintain a soft bend in the knees the entire time, and flex your hips back and forth. She said: Keep your head in a neutral position and do not stretch your back.
Remove your thumb and index finger in pull-ups
Pulling exercises like Longitude dropdown They often aim to target the back, but some people struggle not to engage their arm muscles
To address this, Tsingas said she recommends that people release their thumb and forefinger from their fists and imagine their hands as hooks. She said this tip will also ensure that you don’t hold on too hard.
“If you feel like your arms are getting more work than your actual back, you need to loosen your grip. Some of my girls grab the bar for dear life and they grip it so hard they transfer all the energy into their forearms and biceps,” she said.
Imagine a pencil between your cheeks at the top of a hip thrust
the hip thrust is another exercise that Tsengas said can actually be improved with proper cues.
Here’s how Tsengas recommends performing the hip thrust:
- Use a bench about knee height and tilt the area just below the shoulder blades to its side.
- Keep your shins vertical, with your knees at about a 90-degree angle.
- Tuck in your chin and keep your head forward as you dip your hips down and then push them up.
- This movement can be loaded with a barbell resting on your hips.
Unlike squats and the Romanian deadlift, she said it’s important to press at the top of this movement. She said, “Imagine you have a pencil between your cheeks, and you have to squeeze it to keep it in place.”
In most exercises, especially with the hip thrust, Tsingas said, it’s important to “break the momentum,” so that the isolate muscle does all the work. Pausing for a second on the top and bottom, she said, will help make sure the glutes are activated all the way through.