Some things are hard to explain, and body movements are definitely on that list. When you’re lifting a weight or getting into a yoga pose, each of the 600-ish muscles in your body has a specific role. So trainers have come up with metaphors, feelings, and visual descriptions to help get the message across. Sometimes one of these cues just clicks for you—but other times you may be wondering what the hell it means.
We’re going to go through some of the more common cues you’ll hear, but first I’d like to give a caveat about what a “cue” even is. These phrases aren’t descriptions of how a lift should look; they’re meant as nudges in a particular direction. For example, if you’re leaning too far forward in a squat, you may be told to “sit back.” Somebody who is already properly balanced shouldn’t sit back; that would introduce a new problem.
This means that not every cue you’ll hear is truly meant for you. The most common cues are meant to counteract common mistakes, and that’s what you will hear in general advice or from YouTube instructors. You’ll still need to use your judgment to figure out if the cue is helping you—or, if you’re working with somebody in person, ask for feedback on whether you’re doing it right.
And, to be honest, different coaches will argue about which cues are most appropriate when. I’m not going to wade into any of those debates. Instead, here’s my best description of what each of these strange cues is meant to get you to do.
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