What are your favorite exercise tips?

What cues benefit you the most for proper form during specific routines?

I’ll begin with some exercise tips that have helped me personally plus cues clients have found to be the most beneficial in maintaining proper form during specific exercises while realizing maximum benefits.

This post on exercise tips may change and grow along the way as fitness science, research, trial and error plus your input leads to a better methodology.

Something you will see repeated on The XFNC is that each of us is unique.  Although we share the same human anatomy, we may experience nuances within our individual human movement systems that is unique to each individual.

I would like the keep the focus of this post on exercise and training cues on proper form and execution resulting in minimum injury risk and maximum benefit.

Your input will prove beneficial – to everyone.  Let me know what works for you.  Fill in the blanks that you were missing in any exercise description that would have helped you with a better understanding on form and execution.  If it would have helped you – it will likely help others.

Fingertips behind ears.

Too often I see the cue to interlock your fingers clasping your hands behind your head, usually on core exercises such as crunches.

If you are performing a routine to challenge your core, the goal is to focus on your core musculature while performing the movement. You are NOT supposed to be using your arms to pull on your head thereby putting excess pressure on your neck and cervical spine.  Stop it!

Lightly place your fingertips on your skull just behind your ears anytime the exercise calls for elbows up and hands behind your head. Focus your movement on the muscles you are meant to be working for these routines instead of wrenching your head and neck.

Drawing in maneuver and Bracing

Research has shown that individuals who suffer from low back pain (LBP), approximately 80% of us, exhibit decreased activation of core muscles including transverse abdominis, internal obliques, pelvic floor muscles, multifidis, diaphragm, and deep erector spinae along with back extensor muscles.

In other words, trunk muscle weakness is a significant risk factor for chronic LBP.

Core stabilization training is used in the prevention and rehabilitation of LBP and has been shown to be more effective than medical management or manual therapy.

Specific instructions on the neuromechanical activation of the core musculature includes both the Drawing in and bracing maneuvers.

NASM suggests that to perform the Drawing in Maneuver: “Pull in the region just below the navel toward the spine and maintain the cervical spine in a neutral position.”  Got it? In other words…

Your Cervical Spine includes the seven vertebrae in your neck supporting your skull.  So their tip is to not jut your head forward putting strain on your cervical spine and neck during functional core movements but instead maintain a level eye line and neutral head and neck position while pulling your belly button in toward your spine before and during core training to increase ab activation and pelvic stabilization.

Bracing is referred to as co-contraction of the rectus abdominis, external obliques and quadrates lumborum. This method involves tightening of the core musculature by consciously contracting them during functional core movements.

I’m not sure that I practice these two described methods so much differently as combined, by both drawing in my belly button while simultaneously bracing my abdominals.

You can even practice these methods throughout your day as you walk, move bend, sit down, stand up…by maintaining a neutral cervical spine (good posture) while isometrically contracting your core muscles.

Performing functional core training utilizing these two maneuvers while maintaining a neutral cervical spine can help stabilize the pelvis and spine, improve posture and muscle balance and reduce low back pain.

Plank – what is the plank position anyway?

Depending on the program you are following i.e. Yoga vs bodyweight workouts,  plank has been considered as being in the push-up position and/or with your forearms on the floor. Plus there is yet a third plank position.

Going forward I will refer to these three plank positions as follows:

Push-Up Plank

This is the beginning position for push-ups.

Place your hands on the floor directly below your shoulders while maintaining a neutral spine and flat back so that there is a straight line from your shoulders down to your heels, your toes on the floor. Knees locked, heels back, hips slightly rocked forward, neutral cervical spine with your gaze at a central point just beyond your hands – Hold this position while simultaneously contracting your gluteal muscles, drawing in your navel and bracing your core.



Elbow Plank

Tony calls this position Sphinx. In this plank position your elbows are on the floor directly below your shoulders with your forearms resting in front of your body. Follow the same cues from Push-Up Plank for form.

Chaturanga Plank


When performing a military push-up you begin in the Push-Up Plank position. As you descend into the push-up your elbows go back hugging your sides until your chest is about an inch off the floor. This is the Chaturanga Plank position that you can isometrically hold following the same cues from Push-Up Plank.


A great push-up/core exercise is to hold the push-up plank position for a four count, descend slowly for a four count into chaturanga plank, hold that position with your chest just above the floor for a four count, ascend up for a four count to push-up plank and hold. Slow and steady with proper form will synergistically work more muscles than cranking out as many push-ups as possible with bad form.

Proper Form

Proper form during functional exercise is more important than speed, however  there is an acceptable range of motion within most movements.

As the exercises progressively become more dynamic, proper body alignment and form equals injury prevention!  Form over speed – always!

Heel to Toe to Heel

For bodyweight squats, particularly when you add a plyometric routine such as jump squats, to get the full benefit of the routine follow the heel to toe to heel tip.

As you descend, push your butt backwards into the seated/squat position – your weight should shift toward your heels.

As you ascend, shift your weight mid-foot, then to the balls of your feet/toes as you jump, or perform a calf-raise.

Land softly on your toes/balls of your feet and begin the descent into the squat, pushing your butt backwards as your weight shifts back to your heels.

Land Softly

For all Plyometric and jumping movements – Land softly with knees and hips flexed.  [Flexion – a bending movement in which the relative angle between two adjacent segments decreases.]

Don’t overextend your knees

Try to never extend your knees too far beyond your toes with your weight shifted forward.

90/10 Balance

Performing single leg squats is difficult for some folks. This is when you lift one foot off the floor and squat on one leg. Your knee should still track over your middle toes while your butt goes back and your weight shifts to your heel.

Prior to adding in any plyometric progression this form must be mastered.

Also for increased core activation during some resistance routines you can stand on one leg while doing curls or shoulder presses.

To avoid injury while you are adding single leg plyometric squats and balance resistance exercises you can place 90% of your weight on your stable foot while keeping your tip-toes of your other foot just touching the floor for 10% of your weight to help keep you balanced and reduce injury risk while you improve your single leg balance strength.

Schedule you workouts!

Plan your workouts in advance like you would any appointment. Put you scheduled workout on your calendar. Never miss your most important workout of your entire day!

Exercise vs Excuses!

If you keep doing what you always did, you’ll keep getting what you always got.  No more excuses – do something – anything – today and every day!

Questions?  Contact Me